Witching Metal Webzine

Witching Metal Webzine

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Interview: Memento Mori Records

Interview conducted by James Goatfukk.

MEMENTO MORI RECORDS is an underground label/mailorder from Spain, aspired to release nothing but quality fucking metal under its rotten banner. I've recently ordered eleven CD's from this label, and I recommend everyone else to check it out. Followed is a comprehensive interview with its founder, Raúl. Sit back, grab a beer and enjoy!!!!!!

1. Hello my friend. First of all, thanks for taking some time from your busy schedule to answer some questions... I think the reason for this interview is rather obvious: to know more about your label MEMENTO MORI... But before we get into that, I think it would be a good thing if you could maybe tell us a bit about yourself, like for instance how you got into Metal and what your relation is with the Spanish underground scene and provoked the need to start your own label.
Thanks to you for this chance to expose the label a little bit more, James. Well, I’m soon turning 41 years old. As you can imagine I got into Metal aeons ago. Everything started back in 1981 thanks to one of the tapes that my dad used to play on the car stereo. That tape featured songs by Kiss, The Ramones, AC/DC and Status Quo. There was something about those songs that really clicked on me on a deeper level than the rest of stuff featured on that tape. And that’s how the madness began. I soon learned about Heavy Metal and started hanging out with other guys that used to wear black t-shirts and long hair. The rest is a story that’s still being written.If my memory serves me well, I got into the underground scene by late 1987/early 1988. Those were the days when me and my fellow thrashers and hardcorians learned about fanzines, small distros, tape trading and a whole new world that was lying underneath the mainstream bands, labels and magazines. All that underground thing was so damn exciting and new to us, that we dived deep into it with lots of passion and dedication. Death Metal, Grindcore and Crust soon became the law for us, and by mid-to-late 1989 a few of us were already toying with the idea of forming a Death Metal band. That’s how Sacrophobia was born in 1990. I had no skills to play any instrument, so I took care of the vocals. Barely anyone was setting up underground gigs by then, so it was us, local bands, that would arrange our own shows at squats and small venues. I left Sacrophobia in 1992 and joined another band, namely Post Mortem, that wanted to give their Thrash Metal a more brutal edge. A few weeks later I left them too and completely discarded the idea of being part of a band anymore. Since back then and up until a few years ago I’ve been involved in the arranging of gigs, tours and fests. Regarding Memento Mori, I worked for some other labels in the past and I really liked the experience, so it was just a matter of time that I’d start running my own thing. It was a simple distro at first, back in 2010, but I decided to turn it onto a label/mailorder only a couple months later. It feels great to keep supporting the scene after so long.
2. A quick browse through your distro would reveal that MEMENTO MORI stock mostly old school Death Metal, so would it be correct to assume that Death Metal is the genre closest to your heart? You've done quite a few releases for Death Metal bands from your own country. Can you name them all, as well as the releases you're most proud of?
Yeah, Death Metal is what I dig the most, closely followed by Doom Metal and Thrash Metal. Give me some good old-fashioned slow-to-mid paced filth and I’ll be a merry lad. I’m fine with the occasional blasts, though, as long as they don’t predominate. And I’m also cool with a little technicality/experimentation as long as the core of the music remains rotten enough. I like my Death Metal putrid, dense and blood-drenched, just like it used to be up until 1993. Can’t find anything appealing in Brutal Death, modern Tech-Death or the so-called Melodeath.So far I’ve done releases for a few Spanish bands such as Ataraxy, Morbid Flesh and Necroven, and I’ll soon put out a reissue CD of the solitary full-length album that Feretrum did back in 1992. There’s other bands from this country that I really dig, so hopefully I’ll be able to support a few more in the future. There’s lots of quality in our current scene, more than there ever was, in my opinion, and I’d like to push them through Memento Mori.I don’t mean to sound diplomatic, but as a matter of fact I’m proud of each and every release that I’ve put out so far. Each and every of them is special to me and I’m very grateful to all the bands that were up to work with Memento Mori.

3. You have stated previously that you are able to make a reasonable living from your record label, which is, indeed, rare, considering the fact that MEMENTO MORI is an underground label. I gather this much, that hard work is put into this venture everyday. How long did it actually take for you to realize that the income from your efforts was good enough to live off?

Well, it never was a real choice, but a question of survival. Truth is that I’ve been unemployed for the last 3 years. The financial crisis is hitting hard upon us Spaniards and it’s extremely hard to find a job since 2009, especially for someone my age, so I just had to hang on to Memento Mori as it’s the only source of income that I have. Much hard work is being thrown in this venture, this I can tell you. I spend countless hours in front of my laptop every day, answering each and every e-mail that hits my inbox, taking care of orders, trying to reach to more potential customers, working my ass off to improve distribution, learning about current bands to support through the label, setting trades with other underground labels, negotiating possible licenses and re-releases, promoting my releases… Luckily enough my girlfriend helps me out an awful lot with the logistics (warehouse and packages). Otherwise I’d need more than just 24 hours a day to get things done properly.
4. Which qualities, in terms of sound, do you usually look for in a band for you to do a release for them? I know you're also a fan of some Stoner/Sludge/Doom stuff, so maybe giving us a little info regarding that would be useful. What is it about these styles that gets you ticking? Any particular favourites?
Initially and essentially, I’m interested in bands whose approach is firmly rooted in anachronistic and old-fashioned Death Metal, Doom Metal and anything in between. It’s basically about the kind of stuff that I fell in love with so many years ago. I’m all in when it comes to the old saying that goes “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, you know. Innovation ain’t the aspect that I value the most. Not that I despise it, but it’s not such a big deal to me when a band displays some very obvious influences, as long as they’re good at what they do. If their music clicks on me, then life is sweet and I don’t really care about anything else.Yeah, I’m also a sucker for the mix of Stoner, Sludge and Doom. Not a real fan of Stoner itself (I could only mention a few Stoner bands that I really dig), but I do like some Stoner elements thrown in for good measure. Take the Finnish band Altar Of Betelgeuze, for instance. It’s a band that I recently signed. The Stoner-ish influences they add to their brand of Death/Doom make the whole thing much more dynamic, varied and unique. It works wonders, in my opinion. What is it about these styles that appeals to me? Well, there was an Indie Rock band called Sebadoh that put it down quite accurately. The lyrics to one of their songs go like this: […] Hardcore wasn’t doin’ it for me no more, started smoking pot, thought things sounded better slow, much slower, heavier […]. Loose the “started smoking pot” part and that’s me. I lost interest in fast music in general over the years, unless it’s got some good breakdowns and/or tempo changes. It started boring me to death. It’s the intensity and the heaviness of a slow (or mid-paced) tune that get me craving for more, what really get deep in my innards and grab my soul. I love most forms of Doom-related music, from Trad-Doom to Funeral Doom and through Doom/Death or Sludge/Doom, so I could make a long list of personal favourites that would range from Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus or Witchfinder General to Skepticism, diSEMBOWELMENT or Winter, and through Decomposed (U.K.), Grief, Electric Wizard, Teeth Of Lions Rule The Divine, early Paradise Lost, Warhorse, Indesinence, Corrupted… Way too many names to mention.

5. What is your stance on people who want to put limitations on something as broad as music? I've learned that some of the best bands in the circuit of extreme Metal are inclined to take inspiration outside the confines of metal.
Honestly, I couldn’t care less. I mean, to each his own. There’s this seemingly everlasting conflict true diehard metalheads versus open-minded guys that I could never give a damn about. It tends to get way too puerile and arrogant on both sides, if you ask me. I value people for what they do, why they do it and how they do it, and not for the way they look or the music they listen to. I’m a melomaniac, you know. Memento Mori might be a label focused on Death Metal and Doom Metal, and I definitely am very reactionary when it comes to those two styles, but I personally listen to a really wide range of music. There’s plenty of stuff out there that provides me with tons of different and diverse emotions that I barely can’t find in straight-up Metal or Punk. I’ve loads of negativity inside me that I channel through extreme music. But I also feel good sometimes. Or dreamy in a naive way. Or even happy!!! And I like to cherish and empower those feelings when they seldom pop up. Thus said, I’m fine with bands that take inspiration outside Metal as long as it’s an honest choice made from a desire to push boundaries and/or enrich their music, and not as a move to achieve commercial success. I believe in music as an artistic expression and a vehicle for emotions and communication between people. Not really interested in it as pure business and/or sheer entertainment.

6. What got you started in this venture? Was it purely for the love of the music or was your original aim geared towards making a living from it?
As stated above, it was not my initial plan to make Memento Mori my only source of income. All I wanted, and still want, to do is to support bands that I like and give the reissue treatment to old albums/recordings so everyone could afford to purchase an original copy without paying shitloads of cash for a 1st press copy on eBay, Amazon and the likes. In other words: I want to keep supporting a scene that I fell in love with many years ago. Whether I have to survive and make a living out of Memento Mori or not, doesn’t really matter as long as I sell cheap, communicate fluently with my customers, give them a flawless service and respect the bands that I work with. You’ll never see me put out an album for sheer commercial purpose. You’ll never see me ask a band for money to get their album out under my monicker. You’ll never see me rip off a band, customer or fellow underground label. You’ll never see me compromise my ethos and my modus operandi. And that’s what matters. Or should matter.

7. Hailing from Spain and having been involved in the Metal scene for such a length of time, you must have acquired quite a vast collection of knowledge pertaining to your country's Metal contribution. Can you perhaps indicate to us some of the bands you'd support, their album releases and any thing else you deem an absolute necessity to the fundamental development of Metal in your country, be it Hardcore/Punk/Heavy Metal or even classic Rock bands?

Well, the history of Metal in this country is a story of followers instead of leaders. Some bands were actually good and eventually enjoyed a bit of success within our territory or even in South America, but none of them added a single new trait to Metal or left a strong, indelible imprint in the history of the genre. We never had, and I have my doubts that we’ll ever have, a remarkable band in terms of international recognition, except for a few underground bands. Most of us, Spaniards, put the blame on Franco’s dictatorship and how the country remained closed to any foreign form of culture for almost four decades. And that’s a fact. But I wonder how long will we be able to keep using it as the one and only excuse for the lack of big Spanish names in the worldwide arena. Anyways… Being followers instead of leaders, I honestly can’t think of a single Spanish band whose existence was any necessary to the development of Metal over here. It was all about what other bands were doing abroad and then local bands would draw influence from them and simply mimic as skillfully as they could. A handful of bands did try to conquer the world out there but all of them failed miserably, with the possible exception of Baron Rojo, whose “Volumen Brutal” album (the English version) actually sold many copies throughout Europe. Despite the fact that most Spanish Metal was pretty derivative and irrelevant outside this country, I’d still recommend the early albums/recordings from old Metal/Punk/Rock bands such as Angeles Del Infierno, Baron Rojo, Leño, Eskorbuto, Asfalto or La Polla Records. All that’s worth a good listen for anybody interested in our old scene.

8. As far as more recent bands are concerned, which of their records have really blown you away?

You mean Spanish bands? Well, the current Spanish underground scene is packed with bands that are way better than the ones we used to have 20 years ago. In my not so humble opinion, at least. We have well-known underground bands such as Avulsed, Haemorrhage or Machetazo, whose careers have been spanning over the last many years, and we also have a bunch of newer great bands that are drawing attention from many fans out there, such as Ataraxy, Graveyard, Teitanblood, Banished From Inferno, Morbid Flesh, Onirophagus, Decapitated Christ, Lords Of Bukkake, Oniricous, Gruesome Stuff Relish, Tort... And I guess you’d get more names if you asked someone that’s into Black Metal or Thrash Metal. But if I had to choose a couple albums that really blew me the fuck away as of lately, I’d say Ataraxy’s “Revelations of the Ethereal” and Banished From Inferno’s “Minotaur”.

9. In your opinion, do you believe bands of our age have the mettle to produce music of similar value redolent of the 80's, 90's and perhaps even the 70's?
Most probably not. You know, I've been discussing the "something's missing" topic with many old friends for a few years now. It's like a recurring conversation that keeps getting brought up every now and then. Let’s state a fact first: there’s actually plenty of good albums nowadays. But, no matter how good a recent recording can be, no matter how well-written and well-executed the music is, something is definitely missing when compared to nearly any album from the 60’s, the 70’s, the 80’s or even the 90’s. To be honest, I think it's just a question of context. The old bands were creating something new, so the urge to develop and push it forward was genuinely felt and everything came out naturally. Current bands can only aspire to recreate it, simply because they weren't there, because the context is not the same, because they're influenced by the bands that created the new thing, instead of being influenced by the previous bands and sounds that influenced those bands. Let’s talk Death Metal for instance… Take any current band that draws influence from Entombed. They're not influenced by Repulsion, Discharge or Carcass, which are the bands that influenced Entombed in the first place. Know what I mean? I think the missing link, the gap, is right there. It happens all the time with just any other artistic expression that already existed in the past. Originators and recreators. There's something, say, magic when you create something new that is just not there when you recreate it. And that's it essentially. It's the process of creating something new that makes the difference. That's where purity and genuineness lie. "Altars of Madness" is a milestone because of the musicians' talent and their urge to push the band's influences forward instead of just recreating/perpetuating what others did before them. And even today, when you play an album like that, the magic is still there. Intact. On the other hand, current bands can also choose to take their influences and push them forward too. Take Portal or Mitochondrion as two basic examples. However, the shock value, the groundbreaking factor, would never be the same than it was 20, 30 or 40 years ago, simply because barely any band would be creating a whole new genre and also because people’s ears are already used to listening to very similar stuff that was created before. All that aside, and just like stated above, there’s loads of good recent albums. And there’ll be more coming out in the future. Why don’t we just enjoy them thoroughly for what they are instead of looking back into the past and drawing comparisons all the time? Why shouldn’t we enjoy a nice recreation of something that we actually love? To dismiss it just because it ain’t new, would be idiotic in my opinion. Sure, let’s cherish the past. But let’s also keep supporting what we have now and what we’ll have in the future. I for one refuse to live in the past.

10. Besides being heavily involved and active with your label, what do you usually occupy yourself with during those hours you aren't spending with your woman or your label? I've also found your English to have a certain fluency to it, pertaining perhaps to a liking of literature, has that in any way inspired that which you create?
I lead a pretty calm life with my girlfriend and our cats in a relatively small town far away from the noise of the big city and close to the mountains. Got extremely tired of going out at night and I don’t really like to have people around unless they’re good friends, so we stay at home most of the time and only interrupt that tranquility to have dinner out, go to the movies, take a walk or visit some friends at their place. We don’t even attend shows unless we’re allowed to run a distro stall. I’ve been to craploads of shows in the last 25+ years and I only move my pale ass to see bands that I’ve never seen before and/or might offer something else other than just 4 long-haired guys stuck on a stage playing their instruments without interacting with the crowd. On a more personal level, I always liked reading a lot (especially essays) even though it’s been ages since I read a book for the last time, and I also like watching flicks and documentaries. I’m bilingual (Spanish and English) and I can also speak a little French and Italian. I spent about 10 years learning English with a Welsh teacher at a private academy. That, along with my passion for music, literature and movies in both languages, and the fact that I’ve been practicing my English with tons of foreign guys for the last many years, helped me out an awful lot to get it improved through time.

11. Your thoughts on the following will be well appreciated:

(1) Self-mutilation
That’s a very personal issue that’s none of my business. I’ve some kind of a soft spot for self-destructive people since I’m unfortunately one of them myself. But I just despise self-mutilation acts when they become a gimmick onstage and stuff like that. I don’t really like attention whores in general. Be a man, or a woman, and fight your inner demons like the adult you’re supposed to be instead of showing off like a weeping child begging for attention.

(2) Drugs Just like most things in life, use is fine; abuse is not. If drug abusing didn’t have a social impact (as in crimes of any type being committed by addicts), I wouldn’t care at all. Mind you, when I say “drugs” I mean both the legal and the illegal. Just any substance that alters your personality as much as to become an addict and cause trouble to others.
(3) Social networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc…) Quite useful for promotional purpose. I barely use them for personal communication, though. If I wasn’t running Memento Mori, I’d probably not have a Facebook account. In fact I used to have a personal profile, but I deleted it a couple months later since I never seemed to feel like sharing anything with anyone.
(4) Paper 'zines vs webzines I personally prefer paper ‘zines, but both are equally acceptable and useful in this digital era.
(5) Religious fundamentalism Dogmas of any kind are the root of all evil. Each and every of them are formulated to standardize people and repress those that have a different outlook than yours.

12. Please list at least 10 (or more) albums that you absolutely can't live without...
METALLICA – Master of Puppets
CATHEDRAL – Forest of Equilibrium
CARNIVORE – Retaliation
PESTILENCE – Consuming Impulse
TYPE O NEGATIVE – Slow, Deep and Hard
CELTIC FROST – Morbid Tales
SABBAT (U.K.) – History of a Time to Come & Dreamweaver
DEATH – Scream Bloody Gore & Leprosy
WINTER – Into Darkness
AMEBIX – Arise!
AUTOPSY – Severed Survival & Mental Funeral
MORBID ANGEL – Altars of Madness
VOIVOD – Dimension Hatröss
PARADISE LOST – Lost Paradise & Gothic
SEPULTURA – Schizophrenia & Beneath the Remains
DISCHARGE – See Nothing Hear Nothing Say Nothing
NAPALM DEATH – From Enslavement to Obliteration

Just to mention a few and keeping the list into the Metal and Punk realms.

13. I believe we've covered just about everything for the time being. On that note, I'd like to thank you for your time, as it is most valued, in answering these questions. . .  Any last words before we formally lay this interview to rest? Cheers!!!
Thanks to you too, James, and sorry for delay. Things got hectic during the last few weeks due to the new releases being out, and it took me a little longer than initially expected to get this intie answered. Cheers to Wayde and all the readers too. Feel free to visit www.memento-mori.es and add us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/memento.mori.label and www.facebook.com/groups/252536408217968) for further info on the label and mailorder.In Death, In Doom…