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Interview with Floris Velthuis of Asgrauw, Meslamtaea, Sageland, Schavot, Stuporous & The Color of Rain.

Interview: Gerhans

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Interview with Gerhans of The Color of Rain

Interview: Floris

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Interview with Ward of Void Wanderer Productions

In this second interview for the Zwotte Kring we dive into the world of the label Void Wanderer Productions from the Netherlands. Label owner Ward is part of our collective and also a member of Asgrauw and Meslamtaea. Out of passion for black metal, he started this label a few years ago.

1. Hi Ward, thanks for your time! Void Wanderer Productions is a label that already has done a few Zwotte Kring releases, but has also distributed many cool albums and merch outside of it. Can you introduce yourself and the label?

Hey Floris, thank you for the attention and this interview. I, Ward (aka Kaos, aka Void Wanderer) am the guy behind Void Wanderer Productions. VWP is an underground black metal label based in the Netherlands. My mission is to offer a platform for bands with a high quality and releases that I would like to have on a physical format myself.

2. What was the reason for starting the label? Was it primarily about being able to release your own band’s music and merch, or is there a general passion for black metal behind it?

How it all started? Well, since the founding of Asgrauw, I have been quickly drawn into the (Dutch) black metal scene. Since 2014 I have been actively distributing our own material, starting with Asgrauw’s debut ‘Schijngestalten’ and a number of self-designed t-shirts. From there I had a lot of contact with labels and distros, which also sparked my interest. In 2018 I got the idea to really take the step to do this myself and I founded Void Wanderer Productions.

3. Void Wanderer is known as a traditional black metal label, but with Teitan, The Color of Rain and Stuporous you also dare to release other styles. You are also a fan of hardcore punk yourself. You will currently receive a lot of requests from bands. What makes you want to release something?

Indeed, I often release traditional black metal, but I have also released some deviating experimental or doomy black before the Zwotte Kring bands mentioned above, but also Offret, Lethargie, Tattva, Abigorum and Archaeopteris.

I receive quite a few submissions. And I actually don’t have much time because I enjoy doing so many things, which means I have too many hobbies. But I have been able to make a combination, I exercise 5 days a week and I have enough submissions to listen to at least a new one every time. When I’m working out and an EP/album is finished, there are a number of options: either I thought it was great and wanted to release it, or I heard it wasn’t my thing and I’m not going to release it. Occasionally, after such a session I don’t really know what I listened to. This could be because it didn’t grab me or because I was just too focused on something else. Then I would like to give such an EP/album another chance. But just liking it and wanting to release it is not enough. I still have to agree with the band: when, on what format, etc…

4. Do you prefer vinyl, CD or tape? Does that differ per release?

Personally I would say vinyl, I think this medium is the most beautiful. And what Rui (War Productions) also indicated in your previous interview, playing vinyl is about the entire experience or, as he said, the ritual.

I myself am actually from the CD generation, as a teenager in the 00’s you could no longer find tapes in the shops, I only knew them from my MyFirstSony with which I sometimes recorded songs as a kid.

But for a label things are different. I wish I had the space to release vinyl mostly. But also the upfront investment is too high for me to do this often per year. Tapes, on the other hand, are a different story, the circulation, production time and investment are easy to manage and therefore attractive for an underground label. Another thing is that I am very visual and things that are possible with tapes these days really has some value in that regard.

I also release CDs, I release about half of the releases per year on CD. Some subgenre are simply better suited for CD and others for tape.

5. In the past, quality music emerged naturally. That is no longer the case at the moment. Void Wanderer is very active on social media with PR and, if I’m right, you also expect an active attitude from bands. Is that right?

I indeed have those expectations from bands. My mission is to spread the music as far and wide as possible. I assume that the band wants this too and is therefore actively involved in promoting their own product. This of course goes further than just the physical release, the band certainly benefits from having their name spread, also for their future releases. I like working together with the bands and see them as partners in this. It’s something we have to do together.

6. Doesn’t being active on social media have the downside that the ‘mystery’ surrounding black metal bands (like in the 90’s) disappears? Or is the current time no longer comparable to the past in terms of black metal culture?

I was born in 1990, so I experienced that period very differently. For me, black metal was unknown territory. I don’t know how to run a label without social media these days. Maybe the mystery is gone because there is a more direct line between label – band – fan? But here too the mystery still lives, people like to fill in the blanks for themselves

7. You often collaborate with other labels such as War Productions from Portugal and Onism from England. What is the reason for seeking collaboration?

When I started as a label in 2018, I already had some contact with War productions. This was mainly because of the trading of Asgrauw and Meslamtaea. So for me it was a logical step to also exchange my own releases with War Productions. When I wanted to release the band Eternal Abyss in 2019, I looked for a partner. Ever since War Productions and Void Wanderer Productions have released a lot together.

In 2021 I came into contact with Onism Productions. We released both Teitan albums together on CD.

These collaborations have several positive aspects. You have immediately distributed a larger number of copies to a completely different region, but bearing the financial costs together is of course also a solution for small labels like us. After my experience, learning from each other is also an aspect. In this business it is often about trial and error. And being able to learn from friends & colleagues about what works and what doesn’t work is nice.

8. Which releases are you particularly proud of, and can we expect any interesting releases on Void next year?

Actually, I’m proud of everything I’ve released. We have already planned releases for next year until the summer. I won’t mention any names except Stuporous because the PR routes have yet to begin. But you can expect CDs, tapes, vinyl and merch.

9. How do you see the future of black metal labels in relation to the huge rise of streaming? Is there still a demand for physical formats and do you see that disappearing in the coming years? Can you anticipate to this as a label?

I think the streaming listener is a different group than the collectors. Fortunately, we still have enough collectors in the underground.Collectors also use streaming platforms, but more to discover new music. So these streaming platforms are really helpful for me as a label. I can reach much more people who might be interested in the music I release. Personally, I see CD sales declining the most, there are probably just more vinyl and tape collectors.

Interview: Floris

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Interview with War Faust of War Productions

The idea is to expand Zwotte Kring from a musical collective of friends to more of a platform for extreme metal fans. We start with a small series of interviews with bands, musicians and labels that are close to us and that we are interested in. The kick-off will be done by Rui from War Productions in Portugal. This label has done a lot for Zwotte Kring bands.

1. With the Zwotte Kring releases we see the label War Productions on a regular basis. Releases of Grafhond, Schavot and now Stuporous, have been co-released with Void Wanderer Productions. Please introduce yourself and your label.

Hello everyone and first of all, thank you very much for inviting me to an interview. My name is Rui (more known as War Faust), I’m a Portuguese guy, and I live in Portugal, I’m simply a stubborn fan of underground Metal, HAHAHAHAHAHA. The label started in 2002, the year in which it was possible to realize a dream that I had had for a few years. Since then I have released several releases in various formats, from music cassettes to CDs and vinyl. In the beginning, I wanted to release everything I liked, from Black Metal to Death Metal, to Thrash Metal to Doom, etc etc. But soon I understood that was impossible, so I decided to focus on Black Metal and sometimes (only sometimes) something different.

2. How did you become interested in metal, and black metal specifically?

If memory serves me correctly, it all started around 1990 or 1991 at school. Before that, I already listened to some Hard Rock. There was something about the sound of the guitars and the voices that really caught my attention. So the change to the world of Metal was a quite natural process, I think. Black Metal, I admit, was not very well accepted at first listens, but my curiosity in discovering this new genre was much greater, despite the controversies at the time, which quite honestly went beyond me, I simply wanted to listen the music. So after a while, I came up with a “hypothesis” again and it’s stayed with me until now.

3. War Productions is located in Portugal, a country that is not exactly known for it’s black metal, but I could be wrong! What is the (black) metal scene like in Portugal and which bands should we definitely listen to? Is it a good country to be established as a music-label?

Yes, it’s true, I’m in this beautiful country in the corner of Europe (an expression we have here, a polite one). There are several bands in Portugal within the world of Black Metal. Many are at least minimally known in Europe and are even invited to tours or mini-tours. Others are too “Trve” to say who the members are and if they are from Portugal and/or if they want to play live. Everyone’s opinions/tastes must be respected. In the midst of all this, if i’m honest, in my opinion there have been better times. But it has also been almost the same as it is at the moment. There are few concerts, and there is some rivalry between bands from the North and South. Despite being much better than in the past, at this moment, I don’t have any info about more fights (physical). I feel that sometimes there is no mutual support and even some “brotherhood”, but still a few that keep continue and try to do things.

Bands to listen to? There are many indeed. Some have even existed for many years. Corpus Christii, Decayed, Irae, Grievance, Flagellum Dei, Thy Black Blood, Kruzifix, Lux Ferre, Coldness, Eremus, Mágoa, Incerno Eterno, Black Cilice, Penitência, Vapulah, Candelabrum, Throne Beyond Death, Burning Holocaust, Vulto, Raptus, Omitir, Inthyflesh, Flamma Aeterna, Cripta Oculta, Nortada Gelada, O Cerco, Malleus, Vetala, Satanize, Ab Imo Pectore, Pestiferium, Jazigo, Armnatt, Adverso, War Blasphemy, Storm Legion, Inner Helvete, Ruach Raah, Scarificare, Murmúrio, Raptus, Ordem Satânica, etc. (some still exist, others are split-up) Many more could be mentioned here.

Regarding your last question… No. There are a lot of licenses and fees, VAT is high. The government says that music is culture but however, it is taxed as a luxury item (maximum VAT), but my stubbornness and taste for the underground keep me going.

4. What kind of bands does War Productions release? Do you receive a lot of requests from bands and what decides you to join forces with a band?

What kind of bands I do release… Those that I like and those that I have money to invest in. Unfortunately, the label is not my main job, it wouldn’t pay the bills and put food on the table. I can’t help all the bands that I like and that fit into what War Productions is nowadays. What leads me to invest in a band is liking it (it has to click inside my ears/feelings) and obviously, as mentioned above, having the money to do so.

5. Which format do you prefer, MC/CD/vinyl? And why?

Favourite… Hmm… I’ll say first the one I identify with the most: the cassette. I come from the time of recording radio shows, I caught the end of the tape trading era with some contacts given to me by older people, saving some money so I could buy some demos and record them on a cassette and send them by post. Sometimes I had to wait months, many months, for the other guy/girl to send it. So yes, I identify more with MC. Next… I have to go to the CD. Why? well, at the time I started working and having my own money to buy music, that’s when the big change took place in the world of music. At least in my country. Vinyl started to be produced less, CDs were cheaper, the labels were betting on something smaller and faster to manufacture. There were fewer and fewer stores selling vinyl in my country. The demand, despite being +/- high, there are almost no places to buy it, that’s why CDs were starting to have more and more demand. It’s practical, the space required is much lower than vinyl. Simply a normal process… Vinyl… I personally like vinyl, but the space/price factor weighs heavily and despite vinyl purists who claim that it is the best format in terms of quality, I don’t agree. For me it’s a ritual, picking it up, looking at it, putting it on the vinyl player, picking up the cover, looking at it, feeling that piece of art, then lifting it and changing the side of the vinyl. It’s a ritual for me and I do it whenever I can, but the space/price factor makes it very difficult unfortunately.

6. It used to be that quality releases came in the spotlight automatically. But that is no longer the case nowadays, due to the enormous flood of black metal releases. As a label, how do you give your releases enough attention? Do you expect bands to put in a lot of PR work themselves?

Yes, it’s the truth. Nowadays it is much easier to release a demo, a split, etc, than it was in the past. Who had bands in the 90’s and early 00’s knows what I’m saying. I noticed the difference, in the past bands (and me too) had to go to a studio and pay a lot. Nowadays, a lot of people buy software, a guitar, and a bass and record it, so you can release a lot of music per year. This is all multiplied by thousands of Metal lovers. That’s why it’s much more difficult to stand out, the competition is huge and for the listener, to be honest, is very hard to listen to everything.

I always tried and try to give everyone the same attention, never overriding or prioritizing anyone. If I’m launching it’s because I like what I’m launching and for me, the right thing to do is to give the same time and dedication to everyone in the same way. However, I admit that nowadays it is much easier to promote bands than when I started. It is a process that is always changing due to the tools available, how people search, and the time you have to dedicate. It is a process that I am always learning. Working with a PR is always a big help, I admit, but the label always has to do its job too.

The bands… Here I speak for myself (no label side) as if I were in their place (and I already have been). It is always necessary to work and do what you can and what you know. If you don’t know, simply ask what’s the best thing to do. It’s not all in the hands of the label, even if they do good work, or try their best. So waiting under the tree, waiting for the results to appear is not good in my opinion. Sometimes it works. Other times it doesn’t, but you fought and tried, you made mistakes, you will improve the method you used and correct the mistakes you made.

7. Are there any War-releases you are particularly proud of? And are there any War releases we can look forward to soon?

I’m proud of all to be honest. They all helped in everything, being criticized, being applauded, being sought out by bands, evolving, growing, but sometimes also going backward. All releases were important for War Productions and I’m proud of them all.

Yes, this year (December 1st) Fyrgast from Sweden will be released. It is the reissue of the first album and for the first time in cassette format.

For the year 2024, for now, I can only inform the following band Stuporous from the Netherlands. An excellent Black Doom band! More… What can I say… Honestly, I don’t want to say much more because the other launches are still in the PR process.

8. You work a lot with Void Wanderer Productions from the Netherlands. Why are you joining forces and what is your bond?

Yes, it is true. It happened in a very simple way. We talked, exchanged ideas, and things got done. I have the pleasure of working with a very professional and also very human person, we have/had the pleasure of talking about many things. This also helps to keep moving forward, not just the “professional” and cold part.

Why join forces? In my opinion, it is much easier to work together (with not too many people, it’s better to have a few good ones) and fight in harmony for a common ground. But I also have to admit that for an underground label, it is less expensive to do co-releases.

9. A CD from Zwotte Kring band Stuporous will be released soon. What made you decide to want to release this album?

The first time I heard it, it made a little click inside me but my attention was not the best at that time, I admit it was a bit “rushing”. I didn’t stop to listen the album with listening ears. I was doing some things in my house and some of them needed attention and the music stayed “background music”. So, after that time… I decided to give it another listen, a more dedicated one, and I was very pleased with the album. In my opinion, the band members bring to us a very good musical quality. I hope the underground lovers think the same as me.

10. With the rise of streaming, how do you see the future of music labels in the underground? Do you see this as a danger, or an opportunity?

Here is a question that I have personally answered several times and to this day I have maintained the same idea. The stream helps everyone, in this we have to be realistic and admit it. To both, bands and labels. Be they Underground or Mainstream. They all benefit and are able to reach more places, more people, and easier hearing. Only positive things.

What comes next is that it’s a little more “complicated” for people to buy. Even if it is digitally, what you receive is miserable, the “sharks” of streaming platforms only give you crumbs, and most of the time to receive a crumb you have to have 500 streams (I don’t know if this is the case or really true, I’m commenting things I’ve read on blogs, social media, and I don’t have or use streaming platforms other than YouTube and Bandcamp, so I can’t confirm)…

The physical format costs more money, and space, despite obviously the feeling of having an album, a demo, a vinyl, etc., in your hand will be totally different. This last factor is very important for underground labels. Many of these labels, for their creators/collaborators, are a love, a dream, a “second” job and it takes money to continue. Become rich and/or millionaires? Don’t even think about it, but all money is important for an underground label. So my opinion continues to be 50/50 but in the hope that the second part of the “50” grows…

Interview: Floris