Brian Slagel: For The Sake of Heaviness - The History of Metal Blade Records

"I hope people read it and enjoy it; enjoy the history of Metal Blade and the history of metal as we have shared the same journey, we’ve grown up around it, been moulded by it, our paths have crossed many times..."

This is where it always begins, in a garage; a cluttered work space shared with your mums knitting basket; it starts with pure intentions, a love for heavy metal and a passion to see it thrive… It's ‘For The Sake of Heaviness’. This is Brian Slagel (founder of Metal Blade Records)’ story behind the story for Metal As Fuck...  

“Never in a million years did I expect Metal Blade Records to come this far. I started it just to do a small compilation of local LA metal bands - then the distribution deal came through, then an opportunity to bring more stuff onto the label. I just thought I was going to help out some bands - plain and simple”.  

The purest of intentions, just wanted to be a part of it. So once this began to grow - what became the goals and design for the project? “Honestly there were no goals, I was just a young dumb kid. It really took a long time before we figured out what to do and how to go about it and forge it into a business, but ultimately it was putting out as much good music as I could and seeing how far it went”. 35 years, how does this feel saying this number? “Yeah it makes me feel nice and old [Laughs] but also its fairly incredible that starting out with such humble beginnings that we would still be doing this 35 years later and of course still having fun whilst doing it”. 


The industry can taint us…


Have you accomplished all you set out to achieve? “Well I had none in the beginning [Laughs] so could I say yes? [Laughs] Look this is all way beyond any expectations I had for Metal Blade, but not just Metal Blade - metal in general, how big it has become, the amount of fans; so overall it has blown all my expectations”. 

35 years, a lot can happen in this time frame - what set backs had you had challenge you during this time for Metal Blade? “Well I think I’ve made every mistake humanly possible, so you know that definitely helped - learning curves; putting out records, dealing with finances, dealings with artists… Then employees - I learnt on the fly with a lot of it. Running a business isn’t easy and in the early days there are a lot of challenges, especially the financial aspect. Somehow we were able to make it work”. and it's not just the numbers; a record label is nothing without a dedicated team -   it's that personal touch, so can you tell us what has the label required? Those points where you have gone above and beyond, input, advice to musicians - “We’ve been lucky to work with all these amazing artists over the years who continue to remain great friends of mine so I think having that open mindedness and working with the right people. I think one of the most important things I did was read a few books on psychology - which really helped me deal with certain people, certain situations, just making it all work out in the best possible way. It can often be tricky but we also learnt over the years that working with teams, artists and bands we actually like, makes a big difference”. The Metal Blade rota is always impressive - so what do you look for when signing a band? “Its funny - from day one up until now I have no set formula, it's still basically if I hear something and I like it and I want to work with it. Clearly in this day and age it is important that something tangible is going on, like the band have a social media presence or they’re playing a string of shows. Though we have had times where a band has had none of this going on, we just really like them [Laughs] so there really isn’t any formula”.  


The metal heads 6th sense…. Twang 


People who are going to be picking up this book will clearly be very inspired by your story and the story; the evolution of Metal Blade records, what do you hope to achieve and inspire through this manifesto, what's some advice you can give? “I hope people read it and enjoy it; enjoy the history of Metal Blade and metal also as we have shared the same journey, we’ve grown up around it, been moulded by it, our paths have crossed many times - if you want to start a business it just shows that if you’re passionate about it, it doesn’t have to be music, whatever, you can be successful if you are passionate. If there is one truth you gain through this book it is this”. 

There have been many shifts in the music and the industry over the last 35 years - what would you say would be the Metal Blade legacy? “I hope that we've left a whole lot of great artists that people will listen to for a very long time”. What is the labels mission statement as of today? “The same as day one - finding good artists and turning people onto them and that has always been what it's about for me and it's what it will continue to be”. 

Here’s to another 35 years of Metal Blade - so where is Metal Blade going in the future? “Certainly the industry is moving in different directions and I’m kind of excited about it - streaming, which has become a much bigger player than we ever anticipated. Hopefully it will eventually make it easier for the business side of things and the artists working better together” With the amount of change the digital age has brought us, how flexible does a business such as this need to be? “Oh wow… flexible, you gotta roll with the punches. The first real big change we encountered was CD over vinyl. I was very resistant to that and it almost put the company out of business, so I’ve learnt that whenever there is a change, when some new interesting platform comes along, it's way better to embrace it and work with it than deny it”. 

Out of everything you’ve seen and done; in hindsight, would you do any of it differently? “I can’t have any regrets, I’ve had a great career - sure there would have been a few instances in the early days I would have done differently if I knew then what I knew now but I wouldn’t go back and change too much of anything, it probably all happened exactly how it was suppose to. I couldn't have asked for a more amazing career”. 

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