Currently Unsigned: Hailstone

We're off to Bavaria in the latest installment in our series on up and coming unsigned Metal acts!

Welcome to Metal as Fuck! And thanks for taking part in our Currently Unsigned series!  First things first - Who are you, and what role do you play in the band? "Hey there, my name is Daniel Zhu and I am the vocalist of death metal band Hailstone from Munich, Germany! Nice to meet you!"

You too! And who else is in the band? "Besides me there are Basti Diez (Guitar), Chris (Guitar), Hans (Bass) and Tim (Drums)"

And how long have you been together? "Hailstone formed in early 2009, but the latest line-up right now is pretty new. Our drummer Tim just joined us recently this July 2014". 

So how many releases, if any,  do you have under your belts to date? "We released our debut The Greater Counterfeit in 2012 and released a new EP, The Operation in 2014". 

Marvellous. Ok, that's the prelimineries dealt with, on with the questions! Being unsigned in 2014 has different connotations to being unsigned twenty years ago, or a decade ago. How important do you think record companies are in today’s modern world of social media et cetera? "I personally believe that once you get a reasonable deal with a record company nowadays you must have already achieved quite a few deeds with your band on your own. I do think that record companies are important especially when it comes to taking it to a higher level of professionalism. The power a record company resides in distribution, promotion and management activities which will surely boost the bands image and value. But this is only essential if you have reached a level already, where your band is pretty much well known. For bands at our stage a record company would certainly be a nice thing to have but since the market is overflowing with metal bands from every part of the world ,record companies will most certainly focus on two things to sign you: Your self-made achievements - from which they derive your market value - or you are lucky that someone important at the company incidentally digs your band and think you have huge potential. 

Since social media got huge in these last years it has become way more accessible for bands to attract larger attention by their own means. And since metal became huge there are lots of rather unknown designers, video producers and other supporting artists that can deliver great work at a reasonable price. By establishing a great online media presence and complementing this image with great live shows a band can surely get famous without the help of bigger records companies. In the end running a band is like running a small company. Nobody knows you but you still want to compete. So try to do everything as professionally as possible and the result of quality work will surely show over time. Of course it is time consuming but with that in my opinion the importance of record companies for a band has decreased in comparison to earlier years. People in general are just too lazy to get things done and complain that everything is unfair".

Ah yes, the famous entitlement mentaility! We certainly see a bit of that in our day to day dealings in 'the business'! But to extend that topic a little further, how important is any of the ‘traditional’ impedimenta of the record industry in 2014? Are band managers, distro companies, merch companies and PR reps just other means by which a band can lose money or does each separate part of the machine still have something to offer the unsigned band? "I wouldn’t go as far as saying that all of those are dispensable since I don’t like to lump everything together, but I think that many services offered by those 'impedimenta' are way too overpriced compared to their output. In the end it all comes down to an economic kind of calculation to see if it really benefits the band. If we were to take a closer look at the merch companies, I would say it is okay to pay for high-quality products since merchandise is something a band is living off on most concerts to compensate for their other costs. Continuing on to the distro companies: I think this is a great chance for unknown bands to reach a wider audience, especially if the distro has many selling channels and great connections. But also here it is essentially about how much they charge. When we checked distro possibilities for our album it all came down to less than half the profit compared to selling it on our own. So we decided to sell it on our own".

The all important bottom line! "We might not have as sold as much as we could have by using distro but we reached the break-even point faster way faster. And the sales are still going on. To move on, the usefulness of a PR-rep depends on the status of your band. I mean in PR cases you are literally paying for media attention but in the end what do you gain from it? Will people from other countries book a small band like us just because we have let’s say 5000 likes on Facebook (we do not have 5000 likes by the way)? You will not be booked unless you can back up your media presence with real visitors who are willing to pay to see you. And this can only be the case if your band is already known somewhat.Therefore for bands like us it is most important to play as many shows as possible since this is still the most effective way to reach a lasting audience. If the customers like it live they will mostly buy your stuff and spread your name. At first you will not gain fame all around the world but the fans you reach are real. A good band manager will help you getting either “bigger” shows or shows at places you have never been before. This is why I would prefer a good band manager over the others parts you mentioned (we don’t have one by the way) but just having one does not mean that all your band will take-off instantly. It all comes down to amount of work done by yourself.If you are a small and unsigned band I would say there are many services offered which can be done by yourselves. Hell, there are still way bigger bands and they still manage it on their own. As I said before, put in a lot of effort and always be professional. Even if it does not pay off the way you imagined it will never come back to bite you". 

So you are obviously not averse to a bit of hard work, or indeed exploring all the avenues open to Hailstone as a band trying to make it's way in the world -  What for you as a band has been the most effective means of getting your name out to a wider audience? "I think the lynchpin of everything you do as a band is professionally recorded songs. Of course the song must be good too, but people are more willing to listen if they don’t have to care about getting permanent hearing damage. The song is always the first impression listeners will get – fans, A&R reps and bookers alike". 

It's good to hear some bands still put the songs first! And the least? What's been the biggest waste of effort fot you do you think? "Pay-to-play and band voting/contests, which are solely based on which band can amass the most likes or “fans”.

You've already mentioned that you don’t have a manager, so how many hours a week do you spend on non-playing activities as a band? Would you do that stuff anyway even if you have a manager? "Usually I spend at least half an hour every day doing something for the band – regardless if it is checking on e-mails and new show possibilities or working on new songs. I think it is similar for the other guys. Of course if something else pops up we’d rather spend more time on it so that everything is right. Hell, I already spent over an hour just answering these questions and didn’t even notice that! I’d say I spend between 3 and 6 hours each week just for non-playing activities, practice excluded. If we had a manager I would still do my regular everyday activities and add regular consultations with him or her. I need my dose of double-checks or I would go nuts", (laughs). 

That's an admirable work ethic you've got there! Now to the more interesting stuff – any tour/release plans in the near future? This is the chance to plug your shit! "We have no concrete tour plans yet, but if someone is interested in getting us on a tour or a show anywhere else, just mail us! We are really easy-to-care for. In 2015 we might do a small tour across Germany but we are still checking the options available. For the remaining part of 2014 we have a couple of shows coming up. By the way we just got new merch and it looks awesome. So get your stuff at our store and while you’re at it, we are sure that our album would look amazing if it stood on your CD-shelf! Right now we are still working on new songs and can’t wait to get into the studio to record them. I dare to say that this is really great stuff. It is going to be heavier and still more diversified than our last record. If everything is going right the recordings will take place early 2015. So watch out for more news!"

We certainly will. And talking of that, where can people learn more about you? "Check out our Facebook-Page (facebook.com/HailstoneMunich) and follow us on Twitter (twitter.com/HailstoneMunich) to stay updated. You can watch videos on our Youtube-Channel (youtube.com/HailstoneMunich) and get your stuff at our merchstore (www.hailstone.bigcartel.com). Our homepage www.hailstone-deathmetal.de is being relaunched right now so stay tuned".

That'll be all bases covered then! Anything else the readers of Metal as Fuck need to know about your band? "Bastian is the guy delivering the whiskey to our shows, Christian likes to talk about Jesus, Hans  idolizes Pete Steele but he still has to buy a contrabass, Tim calls himself Sir-Blast-A-Lot and I am a decent cook and an even more decent eater. And we just discovered that playing Tetris on the original Gameboy via link-cable is a great thing you can do if on tour. Well that’s pretty much it. Thank you for the interview and support Hailstone and death metal!"