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We last spoke in depth with Solitude in a '5 years on' interview. Now, to celebrate their 10th birthday, we thought we'd revisit that with a long online chat between the staff at Solitude and here at Doom-metal.com.

Interview with Solitude Productions.

1. Hello to the Solitude Productions staff! Please, could you introduce yourselves?

E.S.: Hi there. Here’s Evgeny Semenov. I’m the co-founder and the label manager for this moment. I organize and do all the routine work )).

S.T.: Hi, I am Sergey Terentjev. I’m the co-founder too. I am responsible for artists’ selection, press-releases, artworks and preparation of releases.

A.G.: Hi, this is Anton Granko! And I'm working with promo and social networks.

2. Could you recap how the label got started?

E.S.: I met Sergey somewhere in 2003 at the forum of Russian based resource doom-metal.ru. He was the one of admins here. Our music tastes fitted in many different directions (and I believe still do) and we had a lot to discuss. Internet wasn't as good as these days and there wasn't a lot of great doom metal stuff over here, so we shared some listening experience and looked for new music. During 2004 we saw a tendency that there are many interesting bands over here and it was hard to find a label for them. It was a point for start. We started label alongside past members of Ocean Of Sorrow and I asked Ilya Remizov to answer as I believe he remembers some things better than we.

I.R.: I was extremely interested in Sergey’s offer to establish a label fully oriented to releasing Russian heavy slow music, as I was always worrying about the development of the Russian scene. In this respect, I contributed my part necessary for issuing the first release of the nascent label with a great pleasure. Later I was responsible for mailing promos to Internet zines and portals and controlling the reviews publication at the label. When the label became mature, I left this business, which took a lot of time from me, and concentrated on my death/doom metal band Revelations of Rain which, I hope, earned the right for lifetime issue at SP.

S.T.: Yes, everything began from our discussions. We discussed the modern Russian scene, ways for it to progress and the possibilities for Russian bands to promote themselves. At that time there was no special label in Russia oriented to doom metal, and in this respect the website and the label were pioneers in the musical genre. One day we decided to establish a label featuring talented and interesting bands which were not able to reach a listener due to their inability to promote themselves. This was just the beginning….

A.G.: My collaboration with the label began around 2008 and since that time I’ve watched how the label grew up and I can say many things have changed even since 2010. It’s easier to contact some zines when the label's not a new one but already has some history.

3. What made you decide to start up the sub-labels BadMoodMan Music, Art of Silence and Slow Burn Records? Are there any practical differences in how you manage them, or is it just convenient for keeping track of different genres?

E.S.: Well, it was the decision to release some music which didn’t fit the concept of Solitude Productions. The first sub-label we established was BadMoodMan music. It was a sub label for releasing some of the doom-related (or doomy) bands, and to try to work with some different genres like dark ambient, depressive black, death metal etc. I think you on doom-metal.com know even better than us why such bands as, Tiamat, Amorphis and others are not included into your bandlist. So let's say that BadMoodMan is for such doomy bands.
With BadMoodMan we started to make limited edition releases in DVD cases, but then decided to make the Art of Silence series for that. It was a project to make strictly limited special package releases which we discontinued after 10 scheduled releases. So, really underground music can be found there. At that point we tried to release everything we could.

Slow Burn Records started in 2010 to work with the growing post-scene. We've done 20 releases to date. It's a very interesting and, in common opinion, underrated division of Solitude Productions. Now we decided to concentrate on Solitude Production releases and you can see that since 2014 we did most releases here.
The main promotional and distribution system was always the same for all labels and sub-labels, so yes it's just convenient for keeping track of different genres.

S.T.: Exactly, the main idea of this division was genre separation. We would like to keep Solitude Productions as a purely doom label, as it was initially meant, this is its original purpose and, say, a unique feature.

A.G.: I can add that there are some small differences in management: zines which write reviews for doom metal often don't listen to post-metal bands from Slow Burn and vice versa. But everything else is similar for all sub-labels.

4. Do you have any particular favourite releases, or most important landmark ones?

E.S.: Each release means something for us. Our first release, Ocean of Sorrow, gave the beginning to everything, the second release, Intaglio, was my personal project, and I believe it's still interesting in musical way after ten years. It sounds specific because of primitive and simple production, but those who are into it still are asking me when we'll make a follow up. This year I started to work in this direction. I hope, in the next year we'll see something interesting here.
The next few releases made us better known amongst the doom scene, and the first real landmark release was Evoken's - Embrace the Emptiness re-issue. It was some kind of game changer for us. Its sales were not as good as we expected, but we gained our position as a doom label. Since that time we became more attractive for foreign bands and started to work more often in this direction.
After that we found and supported many bands which became famous these days. I can definitely say that if there was no Solitude Productions, many bands would have never recorded and released their stuff. I always remember this and this drives me for future work.

S.T.: Indeed, many releases are meaningful for me: some of them became a landmark in the label history (and, actually, the label is already a part of myself), some were close to me music-wise, some attracted by their performance and energy, other hid a pleasant surprise inside, when you were enjoying by the band’s music but never could imagine releasing their new album… With such things the work brings pleasure.

A.G.: Every release has its own interesting side and specifics, but I'll try to select one favorite from each label:
Solitude: Stangala - Boued Tousek Hag Traou Mat All
BadMoodMan: The Morningside - The Wind, The Trees And The Shadows Of The Past
Slow Burn: Catacombe - Kinetic

5. So are you guys musicians too? What do you play, and what projects have you worked on?

E.S.: Yes, and not only musicians. I always believed that it’d be cool if we can provide full music production process and the last thing I’m working on now is building a recording studio (Slow Burn Studio). Sound engineering takes a lot of time and it’s quite difficult task if you don’t want to get a result similar to “homemade” stuff. But I’m working hard on it.
About musicianship, I used to play bass guitar in the band S.C.A.L.P. and have had a funeral doom project Intaglio as I said earlier. Hope to deliver more music in the foreseeable future. The main problem for everything is a lack of time.
Sergey can slightly play the guitar but his main creativity is to write lyrics. Think he’ll tell us better about that.

S.T.: Earlier, I was a singer in a couple of bands, however, fortunately, later I understood that it is much more pleasant to be a listener. Indeed, I'm working with lyrics for several bands, this is much closer for me, as I am into poetry and have issued several collections of poems.

A.G.: I'm not a musician, and probably will never be. Just listening to music.

6. How does it feel to have reached the 10 year anniversary?

E.S.: Strange feeling. When we started in 2005 we thought that 10 years is a very long time and a label which had acted since 1995 was imagined as a really old one. But now I don't feel we are an old label ))). Yes we have a name on the scene, but we are not old. Still thinking about new projects, trying different things, making risky ones etc. The label is our hobby, and we all are quite happy in what we're doing here.

S.T.: Indeed, these are strange feelings. Even now I cannot believe that ten years have passed, that all these things happened, and everything around has changed. However, speaking about the label, I feel that we are still young. Young, but experienced :-)

7. Evgeny, in the interview you gave Doom-metal.com a few years ago, you boldly claimed that your goal as a doom label would be to sign each and every doom band in the world (providing they’re talented enough, I suppose). Although it could sound like a joke, I still perceived a real “monstrous” ambition of the kind in your statement. Now, one cannot but notice that your catalogue is mostly made of extreme doom bands and that, over the years, you signed very few more “traditional” ones (It’s also safe to say that Solitude Prod is largely considered an extreme doom label by the doom community). Is this a conscious choice you made?

E.S.: Well, think traditional doom bands just look for other labels first and there are not as many of them as doom death bands. We tried to make some releases and we are open for further collaborations. Sergey, for example, is a big fan of trad. doom. I like only classic ones like Saint Vitus, Candlemass; generally, I prefer sludge doom and some heavier stuff.
Of course, it was a joke about signing all doom bands because we can’t afford this and not every band have good records, and you are right when you mentioned that a band should be talented enough.

8. About bands looking elsewhere to get their music released, have you already experienced that situation where you try to get a band aboard your label, offering good conditions, and then see them go ink a deal elsewhere? If yes, how do you feel about it? Do you understand the reasons they can give?

E.S.: Sure. Bands are always looking for best offers and it’s absolutely normal, I believe. When we sign a band, we are always looking for longer collaboration, but we can understand, if the band choose a better option in future. It’s ok when we know about this from the band itself, not from news elsewhere. Don’t like this. But I need to say that it doesn’t happen too often.

S.T.: This is quite logical. The thing I cannot understand is that some musicians are afraid of high quality requirements and choose another label with worse conditions, given that we really have not rejected them. Perhaps I am an idealist, but I think that every musician should seek for improvement of his skills quality-wise (That’s why I understand when a band chooses another label with better conditions).

A.G.: This is normal when musicians are looking for the best offer. However, there are some people who wants to publish their music as soon as possible, disregarding the quality - I think that’s not good.

9. Looking at the balance of your roster, I conclude you do a tremendous job, production-wise. It’s almost as if you tried hard to shape the sound of your bands and make it fit to your own required standards. Maybe at the risk of losing some of what makes a band’s personality in the process. So, in which way does it happen? Does Solitude subtly shape the sound, or do the bands (unconsciously?) try to produce material that would guarantee them a big (and very professional, no doubt about that) release on this label?

S.T.: No, we do not have an aim to create an ideal "solitude-sound" :) We released the bands with different abilities and approaches to sound, to some bands we gave a kind of advance so they could obtain fans and prepare new material and reach a qualitatively new level.

E.S.: Usually we do not rule the sound production process as we prefer to check out ready recordings instead of demos. But sometimes we have to show a pathway to young bands who don’t know how to make their album better. You can see that at Solitude Prod. bands have their unique sound and production.
And bands don’t sound like each other as we see in mainstream metal market. I hate when I listen to different bands and they sounds as one album. )) Shame on that trend of making money without making music.

A.G.: Interfering in the sound it would be a bad tone from the label side. But this does not mean that bands shouldn’t work on sound.

10. What are your memories of what the Doom Metal scene in Russia was like in 2005? Do you feel there has been any evolution since then? In which sense?

E.S.: I have to say that before 2005 there was no doom scene in Russia. When Solitude Prod. appeared, many bands understood that it was a chance for their music to see the light and started to work in this direction. And now the worldwide doom metal community knows many of them. If we say about evolution, I think, yes. We started to promote the doom genre here and people started to listen to more bands and our colleagues started to make doom metal fests in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Many famous doom metal bands headlined those fests. I think it’s a big deal.

S.T.: There were single bands in 2005, however, the scene was absent, and the possibility to gather people at the doom internet-forum and establishment of the label started the process which led to what Evgeny is speaking about. I would like to add, that besides the appearance of different topical websites devoted to doom music and doom fests, many labels in Russia started to be interested in this genre (and even to copy Solitude Prod.!).

A.G.: As I live in Ukraine I’ll tell about our scene too. We have seen some doom metal shows here in Kiev. This year there’ll be Doom Over Kiev #7 which is a very good number and mark. And almost all fests included Solitude bands, for example When Nothing Remains are confirmed for this year. And it’s very good!

11. In the very beginning, was the forming of the label a way to offer a professional frame to bands you already knew and liked or did you decide to form the label first, without any projects to rely on?

E.S.: When we started to think about label - the main Idea was to make doom music closer for people (it’s still actually that now). At first we decided to make a label with Sergey and he offered to start with the release of the band Ocean Of Sorrow. He was a friend of the band members and we decided that it’ll be ok. At the same time I worked on the Intaglio project and we decided that it’ll be the second release and we knew that there was a great band Ekklesiast who were looking for a label for their second album Cold. It was enough for a starting point. And then we started to get requests from bands.

S.T.: Let’s say that the project was quite simple: to release the albums by our friends. That was the beginning for everything.

12. Has your selection/rejection process for demos changed or become more formal as the label has grown? How many bands do you expect to hear from in an average month, and do you reply to them all?

E.S.: I listen to all demos and try to answer everyone. But now we're really getting a lot of them so we have to decline about 60-70%. Also many of bands who send us the promos don’t understand our label specific. If they don’t see the difference between doom metal and gothic metal we can’t work with them )).

S.T.: I listen to all domestic bands which send us demos and, unfortunately, the most of them are rejected due to the reason specified by Evgeny, the materials are out of the label scope. Given that there are a lot of musicians and quite a few labels in Russia, some musicians send us material far from metal hoping for good luck. In this respect, sometimes I have to listen to pop, rap, and hardcore.

A.G.: I don’t listen to demos, if somebody sends one to me - I forward it to Evgeny. But many bands do mass mailing and I automatically decline such entries that do not fit our label genre.

13. Do you generally have cooperation or competition with all the other Russian doom labels (Satanarsa, Endless Winter, MFL etc)? Are there rivalries for signings, sales and exposure?

E.S.: I don’t think we should make any competitions. I prefer collaborations with such labels as many of them were influenced by Solitude Prod. as well. We can’t release many bands and our partners do that at their labels. It's very good for the scene, and we make trades with them and have almost all of their releases in stock in our webstore. We always have plans to release something and if a band chooses another way - it’s their decision even if we don’t like that.

S.T.: I think in this situation collaboration is much more exact term rather than competition, because, as a rule, we have different set of bands and similar aims. We have good relations with all our colleagues and this is great!

14. What about joint ventures, like the worldwide releases in partnership with labels such as HDR? Are they easy to set up? What are the advantages and disadvantages for you?

E.S.: Hypnotic Dirge is a very good partner and Canadian distributor of our label. When he offers to make a co-release, we always try to help him. He’s is one of our trusted partners. We’ve been ripped-off many times and appreciate good partnerships.

S.T.: I also like working with HDR – I would call or relations not only business, but friendship as well.

15. Are you interested in the Russian art scene as a whole and, if yes, what contemporary Russian artists working in a non-music medium would you recommend? (Literature, painting, etc?)

S.T.: Russian art is very vast and it is extremely complicated to limit it by a couple of names. Of course, there exists an approved list of writers familiar to almost every foreigner: these are Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, their books you can find in bookstores all over the world and are the base for plays and movies all around world from US to China. Here we can add Pasternak, whose “Doctor Zhivago” is periodically filmed in the West (unfortunately, very poorly).
It is a great pity, that very few people is the West are familiar with Russian poetry (although, they may have heard the name of the Nobel prize winner Brodsky); it is a big part of the Russian culture! Pushkin, Lermontov, Tyutchev, Fet, Yesenin and dozens of other extraordinary names.
If we speak about fine arts, again, we have a lot of styles, directions, names! Starting with unique icons of the Middle Ages by Andrei Rublev, through landscapes by Ivan Shishkin, Arkhip Kuindzhi, Isaac Levitan, and Feodor Vassilyev, through folklore motifs in the national romanticism of Viktor Vasnetsov, to Russian avant-garde by Kazimir Malevich, Alexander Rodchenko, and others...
The same concerning architecture, in Russia many churches, monasteries, and fortresses of Middle Ages are preserved, outstanding baroque palaces of 18th century (St. Petersburg is famous for them), modern-style houses and estates, and unique avant-garde buildings (Moscow and St. Petersburg).
In cinema I would advise paying attention to Soviet movies and cartoons (cartoons about Cheburashka are extremely popular in Japan, while the cartoon "Hedgehog in the Fog" is a world-scale masterpiece) :) And, probably, you've heard something about movies by Tarkovsky... I think this video can help getting into Russian cinema.
And, of course, it is worth mentioning famous Russian composers: Pyotr Tchaikovsky (Piano concerto no.1 and ballet "The Nutcracker" are musts), Sergei Rachmaninoff (I recommend "Isle of the Dead", Op. 29, a symphonic poem), Igor Stravinsky, Dmitri Shostakovich (Symphony No. 7 is great!) All of you definitely heard famous Modest Mussorgsky’s "Pictures at an Exhibition" - originally or interpreted by the bands Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Mekong Delta! Besides, Russia is famous for its religious music, and it is a pity that Gregorian chant is promoted as well-known brand, while Russian znamenny chant is known only for specialists)... And, as a jazz fan, I am proud of our jazz scene (from modern jazzmen I would recommend the Dmitry Ilugdin Trio).

Feodor Vassilyev: "Thaw".

16. If there were any bands, past or present, you could sign up under the Solitude banner, what would they be, and why?

E.S.: I never thought about that. We’ve made many offers to bands in the past. Some of them were realized, some not, but it’s not a point of thinking. We try to think forward according to what we have now and what we can really do. I think that the music business is transforming into something new now. I don’t think that bands will live better after labels are gone. But it’s inevitable.

17. Still, are there any well-established, “popular” bands you personally are a fan of that you’d have approached for a signing under Solitude? Bands like Evoken, Skepticism, Ahab and whatnot…?

E.S.: I'm a big fan of Esoteric. With their two last works they gained their level to high point, and I can't wait to hear their new album they're working on now. However, I don't think we can make a better deal for them than Season Of Mist did. Anyway, we distribute some of their releases and everything is OK, I think. We are open for all big bands with similar music vision as ours, so, who knows what will be in future?

S.T.: I think we should act depending on the situation. So far we released the material we were able to release. Of course, there are favourite bands we would like to see at Solitude Prod., however, it is hard to say what will happen in future. Perhaps, some dreams will come true.

18. Tell us a bit about the promotional and publicity side of the business, and how it fits in with the press/media. You do a great job of keeping people like us in the loop with releases, and in providing electronic and physical copies of albums. How widely do you distribute out all of that? Is it expensive to you, and do you feel you get value in return?

E.S.: We think that advertising is a serious thing, but it should be cost effective. What do I mean? For every release we made, we ship 10% as promo CDs to zines, magazines, and radios (including doom-metal.com!). Also, we spread digital promos to zines who prefer this format (I prefer digital too). We make all albums streaming in full for free on bandcamp. So we try to make music available for everyone in any form.
We understand, that doom metal is not a very popular genre (and never was, actually), but we try to satisfy the existing auditory looking forward for what we are doing. Many bands (who understand that we can't make a new Metallica from them) found a sweet home here.
The main problems with these promo things is that many zines need too much time to write a review. Sometimes up to a year. And every band after they released an album wants a much faster reaction, but they have to wait.
We collect all reviews on our site as a comments to each release. We don't throw away negative ones, if they exist, because if a fan of brutal death writes that it's a "slow shit", it's good recommendation for doom metal community even if the scores are low )))) .

S.T.: I think that this problem exists, and many reviewers are becoming lazy :) But the main point is that we are doing our work honestly, and I am sure about this.

A.G.: We see a bad tendency now that we receive less reviews than earlier, because some zines became inactive or are just closing their doors, but it’s good to see that there are some great people who write reviews within 2-3 days before release and it’s really great. I believe that the future belongs to digital delivery of content as it’s very fast and comfortable for everyone. But it’s a bad thing that digital releases can’t decorate music collections as the physicals do. Also I see that the music quality degrades now with over compressed/limited recordings so the CD and LP editions from the 80s/90s became very popular for lovers of good sound.

19. Over a ten-year activity, I suppose you have got yourselves a good knowledge of the worldwide Doom market… What parts of the world, what countries would be your best customers? And have you noticed a growing interest for Doom in developing countries, like China and India?

E.S.: Yes, we know many markets. But I can't say there is a big interest coming from developing countries, like China and India. Think that people are looking for some cheaper offers when it comes to buy music. But we see some interest coming from Latin America. Many fans live there, and we are working with Helllight, a band coming from Brazil. They are preparing a new album for this autumn.
Anyway the main interest for doom metal comes from Europe.

S.T.:I would currently consider China as a “developing country”, as it is already quite a developed one, and, at the same time, deeply all-sufficient, and, in this connection it does not demonstrate any significant interest to doom metal. On the contrary, in Latin America there are a lot of bands and fans, and, hence, it is quite prospective in terms of development of doom metal genre.

20. Do you then think Doom might be a culture thing? Doom and all the emotions/themes it conveys/plays with would be an effect, whose cause should be found in our wealthy lifestyle, maybe a kind of reactionary surge in a desperate attempt to slow down things a bit? A look towards past when present can be so disappointing? What would be your own interpretation?

S.T.: Yes, as I already told about the case of China, this is quite possible. For example, some styles are popular in Japan, others are popular in US, a third in Norway etc. In Russia, for example, old rock like Deep Purple, Scorpions, Uriah Heep is popular, and these bands often visit Russia, however, I don’t think that they are welcomed in the other world with the same frequency and love. This can be explained by the fact that a lot of their fans were growing up together with their music, and at that time there was a deficit of information about Western music when vinyl records were bought on occasion for enormous money. Now these fans bring up their own children listening to the same music… It should be noted that in Scandinavia there are a lot of black metal bands and sympho-metal bands with female vocals. I do not think that this is a coincidence. :)
To my mind, doom metal as a genre as not a subculture, on the contrary to gothic rock/metal or black metal, it is listened to in different proportions by the people with different musical tastes, and, perhaps, this is the problem of its “popularity”.

21. Our final question, then - what do you do when you’re not working? How do you choose to relax? And do you have any pets?

E.S.: I can say that music takes almost all of my free time. I like to listen to music, I like to play music etc. I have family, I have a daughter and the rest of time I spend with them. Don’t have any pets because they also need time. I have to schedule my time very hard to get all things done.

A.G.: It is best to relax outside of the big city. When I have the time and opportunity, I use it to travel. Also it’s a good way to relax by listening to music, and these two things can be combined.

22. And if there is anything you want to add, as always, the last words are yours...

E.S. & S.T. & A.G.: We are very excited about the 10th anniversary of the label and we’ve made some special releases to celebrate this date.
First of all, there are two new Solitude Productions releases: Funeral “In Fields Of Pestilent Grief” (re-release with bonus tracks) and Fallen - “Fallen” (discography compilation with tracks from A Tragedy's Bitter End, Demo’ 04 and 2 unreleased tracks that were planned for second album back in 2007). This CD contains 79 minutes of music! Both are in digipacks with newly designed artwork and look great.

The second is an exclusive compilation of some stuff we released, but unavailable before on CD. It contains tracks from Enth “Enth” 12” EP and digital-only tracks from Luna «There Is No Tomorrow Gone Beyond Sorrow Under A Sheltering Mask», Embrace Of Silence «Last Winter» and Edenian «Forgotten Once», it’s limited to 500 copies and will be available for almost FREE for all our store customers until the end of the summer.
And the last one is a digital compilation which contains tracks from all releases we’ve made in chronological order between 16 July 2005 and 16 July 2015 and can be used as an ultimate guide to Solitude Vaults. The compilation contains tracks from Solitude Productions alongside tracks from our sub-labels BadMoodMan, Slow Burn and Art Of Silence. So the different genres persist here: from Traditional Doom and Doom Death to Dark Metal, Black Ambient and Post Rock. I hope all of you will enjoy this compilation and of course it's also absolutely free for everyone. Enjoy the music and give a chance to some Slow Burn bands if you hadn't heard them before. It’s not “doom metal”, but music with same mood and feelings!

P.S. To be honest about 5 years ago we thought that “when it’s our 10th anniversary we’ll definitely make a big fest with our bands”, but modern crisis and bad economical situation doesn’t give us a chance to do that. Now it’s not a good time for any label, but we hope that the doom metal community will continue to support Solitude Productions and we’ll bring you many great bands.

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Interviewed on 2015-07-16 by Doom-metal.com.
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