Julie Weir once seemed like a freak - a lone girl in the male dominated world of the London music industry in the '90s. Thankfully things have changed a bit now, and Julie takes some time out to reflect on her career for Metal as Fuck
I first met Visible Noise supremo Julie Weir in, ooh, 1996 it must have been. I was knee deep in the merch business, working for bands like Sepultura, Fear Factory and Type O Negative through Blue Grape Merchandise, and she was in charge of just about everything at Cacophonous Records – coincidentally I’m wearing my Cacophonous Infernal Horde shirt as I type- who at the time had put out the first couple of Cradle of Filth releases and were hawking the likes of Gehenna and Sigh to a willing public. We did a fair bit of drinking together (but sadly not much work) back in the day; but whilst I fell by the wayside, Julie kept going and now runs the afore-mentioned Visible Noise Records home of, amongst others, Welsh screamo kings the Lostprophets. I thought it might be nice to catch up with Julie and find out a few of her thoughts on life as a woman in the music industry.
You’ve been at this game for a while now. How has the role of women in the heavy metal industry changed during that time? Is it easier for a girl to forge a worthwhile career in the metal industry now, or do people still see them as ‘press girl’ fodder?
I have been working in the music industry since I was about 18 in an unofficial capacity – journalism, photography and design whilst at Uni - going on to work in an independent record store in Leeds… and then on to working for Cacophonous in London in 1996… to setting up Visible Noise in 1998. When I first started, I was working with black metal artists which was a little intimidating in the beginning – more so to do with the fact that that wasn’t my main genre of choice to listen to than a gender issue , but I was lucky in that I met some great people – a lot of whom I am still in touch with now. When I was doing this I can only remember one other girl in the industry, who was TIziana Stupia who ran Misanthropy Records (Burzum, In the Woods etc). We knew each other as we worked on the same kind of music – but I believe she is now out of the industry (you’re right, Julie. She now is a full-time Pagan Priestess!).
There are loads more girls working in Metal now from PR, through to A&R, tour management, agents and promoters – right across the spectrum. And some of them are really at the top of the game. I don’t particularly like the male/female divide people seem to mentally expect in the music industry in general – times have changed across the world in all industries, and there are loads of opportunities out there for people who want to put the effort and hours in. It doesn’t matter if you are male or female as long as you are good at what you do.
You’ve given a chance to some bands that have gone on to become some of the biggest names in extreme music; Just what factors mark a band out as having the special something for you? And what is the most common mistake bands make when approaching you as a label? Is it even worth sending promo packages to record companies any more when a good-looking Myspace page says everything you need to say?
This may sound as old as the hills but a lot of it is gut feeling…and the fact that the bands are there with a hunger and enthusiasm for what they want to achieve. A band has to have a vision and be willing to work WITH you on a lot of levels and I do instil that into the artists we work with. Getting signed is only a tiny part of the puzzle… and even if you do get signed, only a tiny portion of bands actually make it to any discernable level. Harsh but true!
One of the worst mistakes bands make is to send me a demo or a Myspace link that is basically emulating an artist already signed to the label… why would any label want a tribute act of sorts to one of their major artists? I love bands which go out on a limb and do their own thing… taking a risk, not being afraid… and creating something that is amazing.
Ironically, it IS definitely still worth sending out promo packs – correctly researched ones of course! No point sending a grindcore demo to a label that specialises in roots and dub . And a lot of labels still prefer demos as a lot of packs do show the level of commitment of the artist too.
When you were running Cacophonous, breaking a band was very simple – they just toured. And then did some touring. By the time you’d moved on to Visible Noise, the internet was just starting to establish itself as a viable means of spreading the word for a band. Now that you are literally only a mouse click away from discovering as much new music as you want without having to look at a magazine or listen to a radio station, how have your methods of promoting your bands changed? Or is there still no substitute for road work?
It doesn’t mean that because the methods of promoting the bands have changed or got effectively easier that there still isn’t hard work to be done. The Internet is a completely double edged sword! On the upside, information dissemination is very easy, on the downside it means there is just so much music out there on any site at any time that it is very hard to cut the wheat from the chaff. And I also believe it makes a lot of bands very lazy. People send us Myspace pages of them with 12 followers, no gigs and no content…a label still needs to see the band working and striving for something. If the attitude is “here's the material get on with it” I am afraid you may be very disappointed with the reaction from a lot of people at labels.
A lot of bands have passed through your hands, and many have become very successful. Which band that didn’t make it do you feel were most worthy of success and why?
All of the bands I have worked with in the past were very hardworking……we are currently working with a band called The Dead Formats who are in the writing stages of their first album… and I can see big things in store for them (think 70s punk aesthetic with a driving sound and 2 vocalists). It’s amazing stuff.
As for the band I think is the most worthy of success, as I said, I can’t name one specifically…..as they are all hardworking.
And have you had a ‘Beatles/Decca’ moment, when you passed on a band that went on to be massive?
We were trying to work with Gallows early on…but there is no way we would have been able to compete with the level of deal offered by Warner. I really loved that band and their philosophy. So was gutted we didn’t get them.
We also broke Bullet for My Valentine in the UK, and their subsequent albums have gone on to be huge (we did similar figures ourselves though) and they aren’t with us. Again, another band I absolutely loved. And they are nice people too. I miss working with them a lot actually.
We did get a demo for Turbonegro just before Apocalypse Dudes and I do regret not working with them very much as they are STILL one of my favourite bands!
So what does the rest of the year (and beyond) hold in store for Julie Weir?
I am working a lot on music synchs for film, TV and ads, so I am hoping that that side of the business will keep growing as we are getting some great successes.
Original feature article on MaF is here.
We also have a management company called Wiseblood where we are looking after Evile, Me Vs Heroand Exit Ten currently worldwide…..and we are in the process of setting up our clothing company Magnetic Vault too.
Anything else you’d like the readers of Metal as Fuck to know about?
Keep an eye out for new releases from Your Demise and Bring me the Horizon in the Autumn viaShock. They are both sounding absolutely blinding!!
Also check out the Visible Noise store for loads of limited edition items from all of our bands