|Solitude Productions is a renown label among the Doom community. It grows bigger year after year. We at Doom-Metal wanted to know a bit more about them and the way they work. We had a long chat about all that with Evgeny Semenov, the label's manager.|
Solitude Productions is a renown label among the Doom community. It grows bigger year after year; St:Erik, the Thergothon Tribute, Ea, The Morningside or Kauan have gathered praising reviews throughout the internet. We at Doom-Metal wanted to know a bit more about them and the way they work. We had a long chat about all that with Evgeny Semenov, 27 years old, the label's manager and responsible for the labelís webstore.
Hi Evgeny! Letís make a quick introduction of yourself; and first question: how did you discover Doom Metal?
Hi! Well, I started to listen to Death Doom with the classic Peaceville Three (Paradise Lost, Anathema and My Dying Bride), then I went into some Funeral bands like Skepticism, Thergothon and Esoteric. Also, Iíve always had an interest for the US Doom scene which in my opinion is way different from the European one (Earth, Burning Witch etc...).
What kind of music do you listen to beside Doom?
Iím intersted in many genres, from Rock to Hardcore. I donít put me any limits as many people do.
What kind of Doom culture do you have? Do you listen to Black Sabbath, St Vitus, Reverend Bizarre? Do you pay attention to the Trad. Doom scene?
Yes! I have all classic Sabbath albums, I even own a 1st press copy of the St. Vitus 1984 album! I like early Candlemass, but Iímnot into Reverend Bizarre. About Doom culture Ė when I say ĎDoomí, it goes from Trad. Doom to Death Doom, itís just different styles within the same genre.
What has been you big "shock" in Doom these last years?
I was blown away by Esoteric Ė The Maniacal Vale; it became one of my favourite albums above all. Also I love the Funeral band Ea, which is signed on our label.
In your opinion, is Funeral Doom still Metal?
Well if we take Thergothon, we have slow Death Doom Metal. And there are many Funeral Doom bands which play a very slow form of Death Doom and which are 100 percent Metal bands. Therís also a more Ambient fringe of Funeral Doom band, well, itís not Metal anymore, then.
What is your definition of Gothic Music?
I Donít have any special definition about that. If a band plays something which is usually called Gothic Doom, we release it on our division BadMoodMan Music because we donít think itís Doom per se.
Do you like graveyards?
Hey! Iím not a maniac! Maybe because graveyards in Russia are slightly different from graveyards in other countries. I canít explain it in EnglishÖ
What are you afraid of?
Another revolution in Russia. Or politic forces which can close our country again.
Okay, thanks! Now, to your label, Solitude productions: where exactly in Russia is your label based?
In 2005 we started out in Moscow city, but due to some private reasons and an ever increasing rent price for our warehouse in 2008, the label moved to Orel city which is not too far from Moscow.
How many are you managing Solitude Productions?
Iím managing the label from the start, but Iím not alone: Solitude Productions / BadMoodMan Music are controlled by two persons: me and my good friend Sergey Terentjev. I live in Orel and Sergey in Moscow, so we share our work in different ways: I keep the warehouse and Sergey takes care of the many contacts we keep with the main distributors in Moscow.
Tell me, is there an active Metal scene where you live?
Not very active here, Iím afraid. Thereís a bunch of Heavy and Deathcore/Metalcore bands, active doom metal bands are very rare. There is the Moscow Doom Festival youíre certainly know, but Moscow is not your typical Russian city. Elsewhere, there is nothing at all.
Please, tell us when, how and why you launched your label.
Late 2004 Sergey and I decided to found a label to promote Doom Metal. There was very few labels specialized on this genre back then and we decided to gather all our strength to make something come out. The main problem was money of course, and the fact that we didnít have enough experience to manage properly a label; in that perspective, we took some advice from other established labels, but 95 percent of the whole thing, we did ourselves.
Which was the first band you signed? And how did it happen?
When we decided to launch a label, we decided that the first release would be Ocean Of Sorrow Ė past band of our friends (now in Revelations Of Rain). The demo was re-mastered and re-recorded with some additional tracks. We decided that itíll be limited to 1000 copies. Ocean Of Sorrowís song ďAutumn RiverĒ was played on Doom-Metal.com radio by the way!
How do you Ďcastí your bands? Do you prospect a lot or do you let them come to you?
We listen to a lot of promos. If we are interested, we offer the band to release their album on our label. Sometimes, if we spot an interesting band, and feel like working wih them, we can make an offer directly, without any promos (the last one we ask to join the label is The Howling Void). The only creed is: a good recording, a good production and patience.
What is it that youíre expecting from a band you sign? What kind of sound are you searching? What is it for you the best incarnation / description of the ďSolitude soundĒ, if any?
I donít think weíre searching for a particular sound. Weíre just trying to make good quality releases. Nowadays some labels produce absolutely unprofessional recordings which are painful to listen toÖ. We donít want to do that; if we lay hands on a good band with a good material but that it comes with a bad mix, we can offer them to send all the materials to one of our local studios and make a proper mixing and mastering; of course, we support every costs for that.
I noticed there is a much less vivid Trad. Doom scene in the slavic area. Solitude itself doesnít promote a lot of Trad. Doom (there are exeptions like St:Erik and Heavy Lords). How would you explain this ďslavicĒ appeal for extreme Doom?
We are interested in Trad. Doom bands but there arenít so common now, so we released only few of it. Thereís only one band now on Russia territory I can think of that plays Trad. Doom ; it still has no name and stays quite obscur for everyone. But if they make a good recording weíll release it.
I donít think that ďslavicĒ Doom bands have any differences with others now. It was more the case in the 90ies, when bands didnít have any normal conditions to make a recording; most of them played Melodic Death under an odd Doom label. That has brought some confusion, I think thatís why many people donít like ďRussian doomĒ and I understand them. Today we have an absolutely different situation and some very good proper Doom bands.
Comatose Vigil, The Morningside, Autumnia, Abstract Spirit have made themselves a name. American/European bands are really good but we try to gain our local bands to the next level and I think we have some good examples of that improvement. We have a really small scene that sadly has no relation with the vastness of Russiaís big territory.
How are the whole production costs organized? In harsh terms, who pays what?
We always pay production costs and promo campaign (we send 100 CDs of each release to different zines, radios around the world). Sometimes we support the mastering and recording costs but if we know that band will show good sales and we wonít loose money. Today many people download pirated MP3 and donít buy CDs anymore, so really sales are very lowÖ
About the artwork: my labelís partner, Sergey Terentjev, also works as designer. If a band can do the artwork itself, no problem, he can bring some correction if thereís something wrong, put the labelís logos etc... without spending any extra money. Also he can make the full artwork, as he did for The Evoken re-issue or The Frailty etc... Also, we work with Roman Corvinus, heís a Russian designer who made the artwork for the Thergothon tribute and the MŲse album.
The main productionís idea is quite simple in fact: first, we get a good album and then, we see what we have and what needs to be completed and we decide who pays what. Each time is a different story.
What is the regular number of an albumís copies you usually release ? Does it happen that you have to re-print an album because it runs out of stock? If yes, which band for example had to be re-pressed and - another question in the same line - Which band is your bestseller (how many albums)?
We press 1000 copies of each album, sometime we can re-print an album if we run out of stock. This time, we re-printed the first opus of The Morningside, Ea and Intaglio. The Morningside must be our best sale (their first album was marked as one of the best of 2007 on many sites)
Which part of the selling price comes to the band?
We have a slightly different system. We give the band 10-15 percent of the produced CDs which they can sell locally and on their shows. Usually, this covers all their studio expenses. After a quick counting, you could say that 800 to maybe 1500Ä for a recording session is quite low, but if a band shows good sales we can cover some recording expenses too. If we press more than 1000, itís more. Or we make one time payment because we sign a contract for a fixed amount of copies and we wonít produce more than what is mentioned in the contract (1000 copies is a minimum, usually we sign a contract for 2000-3000 copies). We donít buy and own rights, we just make agreements and use rights for some time (tthat means a band owns their own rights but they canít use it for a CD release for some time. Meanwhile, they are totally free to make tape of vinyl releases on any other labels)
How do you organize the distribution of your cds?
We make trades with many big labels: we send them our CDs and they send us theirs Ė this way our distribution net covers many countries and it helps us to get better sales; 70 percent of the underground labels make trades. There is a clear trade points system (example: a standard CD is 4 points, MCD is 3 pt., Digipak is 5 pt. 2xCD is 6pt.). Thatís why we canít calculate which part of the selling price should come to the band because each time we sell CDs at a different price, under different conditions.... And, as you know, our prices are very lowÖ.
Precisely, how can you sell your cds at such a low price (and I include here the cds you sell in your distro)?
We just make real prices for CDs. If prices are big people will prefer to search for MP3 but our prices are acceptable for everyone; I think that 13-15Ä for a CD is quite expensive.
How do you explain the huge amount of Doom bands that come from the slavic sphere, including the ex-USSR? And what makes them peculiar?
There wasnít many bands before we started out and sometimes, bands didnít made a recording because no label was interested in a release. But when we started out, bands who played Doom Metal started to record their albums because they knew for sure that their album will be released on Solitude Productions or BadMoodMan Music.
Solitude is associated with BadMoodMan Music and recently, you launched a new subdivision : Art of Silence; what is the reason to multiply the labels; how would you define their identity? And how do you decide that this or that band would better fit within this or that label?
Bands who play Doom Metal, Doom-Death, Funeral Doom or Sludge Doom are associated with mother label Solitude Productions, while the bands playing other styles (for example, Melodic Death, Gothic Metal) including, however, Doom Metal elements, are associated with BadMoodMan Music. I told about that earlier when bands plays mid-tempo Melodic Death and think that they played Doom Metal. We call that ďDoomyĒ music. Also we release some Black Metal and Ambient projects. Art Of Silence is a small division for very limited series of releases (100 copies each) for some interesting projects production of which doesnít fit our standards.
What do you think about downloading music? And do you think about distributing your artists in a digital form?
I prefer to buy a CD because it have the booklet etc... As a CD collector, you wonít change my mind about that! We are thinking about digital distribution and already added some of out bands to digital catalogues but it doesnít show good sales. I know why : there are 2 links, 1 free and another one at 5-7$.... which will you choose? If youíd like to support bands, youíll buy CDs from us because itís cost only 8$, if you donít want to support anyone youíll choose a free link.
Do you think cd still has a future? And what do think about vinyl and tape format?
I think CDs have future but in less quantities; same for Vinyl. I donít like tape format but I think that Vinyl is the best format ever made because it has a perfect analogue sound (if the recording source was analogue of course) and Vinyl can lasts a long time. There are one minus Ė the big equipment cost.
How do you see the future of Solitude Prod.?
We plan to keep our work on the same line, to find and produce interesting bands and make good releases. I hope we wonít encounter to many problems trying to realize that!
Which band are you dreaming to sign?
We are dreaming to sign all doom metal bands and became the only one doom metal label!!
Okay, thanks a lot for your time Evgeny! This is my last question, a classic one: do you want to add something for our readers?
Thanks for reading! I just wish you come and visit our site (www.solitude-prod.com) and our store (www.solitudestore.com). Thanks!
Visit the Solitude Productions bandpage.