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Chris Poland

I have known Chris Poland for years when he was doing Eclipse Records way back when I was doing my print zine and we pretty much lost touch with each other and now thanks to Facebook you can read this interview with him about his label:

MC: Tell me a bit about your childhood. Have you lived in NJ all your life?

CP: Yes, I was born in Lodi, NJ and by the time I was 4 we moved to Northern NJ where I have lived for all of my life.
MC: What were your teenage years like and what did you want to be when you were growing up?

CP: I was quite a trouble maker when I was younger, I liked music. All I did was play my guitar, literally like 8 hours every day, I was obsessed.
MC: When did the wonderful world of music enter your life and what were some of the early bands that you liked and go into?

CP: I first got turned on to heavy metal when I was in middle school, probably around sixth grade. I remember my first encounter w/ metal quite vividly. I was clothes shopping with my mother, and walking through the aisle and I saw from a distance the album cover for Iron Maiden’s "Live After Death" album on vinyl. I was drawn to it like a bug to UV light, and I had no idea where it would lead me – only that I thought the cover art kicked ass. From there, it led to other bands like Judas Priest, Rush, Frank Zappa, Black Sabbath, and then once I discovered Megadeth and Metallica, it was full-throttle for the rest of my life. There was a radio show on WRTN hosted by a DJ named Matt O’Shaughnessy called "Midnight Metal". It was on Sunday nights I think, and I used to tape the show and re-listen all week long. I discovered lots more bands who I became a huge fan of from that – Slayer, Destruction, Anthrax, Mercyful Fate, and many others.
MC: Now since you lived in NJ I am sure you have to been to Vintage Vinyl. Tell people what store that is like.

CP: Vintage Vinyl is located in Fords, NJ. It is literally THE quintessential independent record store, with a strong focus on rock, and metal music. They carry tons of hard to find stuff, as well as the current stuff. Frequently they host meet & greets, signings, and other events. It’s a bit far from where I live, however I do travel there when one of my bands is touring nearby at venues such as Starland, or Stone Pony, etc…
MC: How did you come up with the name Eclipse Records? Were any other thought of at the time?

CP: Initially the label was called Spider Records, however once I found out there was a label from Canada there I changed the name. I incorporated the business in 1997 as Eclipse and haven’t looked back since. Basically the thoughts behind the name, were that Eclipse will grow bigger and bigger, with its artists achieving success and "eclipsing" the competition.
MC: Did you work at any labels prior to starting your own. I am sure you got advice from people, what was the best advice you ever got?

CP: Actually, I wasn’t in the business before starting Eclipse. I was on the music side of things, in bands and playing. I played guitar in two bands that had a good amount of regional success throughout the NY/NJ tri-state area. The first was called Soundstorm, and the other was called Dirt Church. Sometimes people confuse me as the same Chris Poland that played guitar in Megadeth, but to be clear, he and I just happen to have the same name. I also worked in music distribution for a few years – the company was called Big Daddy music distribution, where I worked in marketing, then product management. They distributed well over 250 different record companies, but they were lacking rock/metal labels. Eventually, I was signing record labels for the company, and I brought on board quite a few, most notably The End Records, and Necropolis Records.
MC: Now are you the only one at the label or do you have another person or persons that work there with you?

CP: I currently have three employees, one of which works remotely from Minnesota.
MC: Now in 1997 the label began. How long from the idea of starting a label did you actually put something out?

CP: If I recall correctly, our first release was by the band Cipher from Philadelphia, PA. We incorporated in 1997 and that album came out sometime in 2008, it’s hard to remember that far back, almost 20 years!
MC: Are all your releases still available in one form of another?

CP: Most are, there’s some catalog stuff that doesn’t move enough physical units which we are no longer pressing, so once we sell out of those titles, they’ll only be available digitally moving forward.
MC: Tell me about your 1st release. Did the band find you or did you find the band? How happy were you to actually have some finished product in your hands?
CP: I met Matt who was the guitarist of Cipher at The Philadelphia Music Conference that year (before I started the label actually), he and I connected and kept in touch and it kind of just worked out that way. I was pretty excited to have a finished product in hand, absolutely, it was the first CD Eclipse ever put out, manufactured, or promoted – I keep a copy here in the office in a display case because it symbolizes Eclipse’s beginning.
MC: I know at one point you signed the band "Mushroomhead". How did this come about and with that release did it make the label a ton more known?

CP: Eclipse was pretty much an underground label and relatively unknown, until I signed Mushroomhead and released their national debut, XX. Once that band took off, it definitely put Eclipse on the map and into the national spotlight, yes. I remember being on tour with Cipher in 1998 and had booked the band to open for Mushroomhead at The World Series of Heavy Metal, which was an annual event run by a now-deceased concert promoter named Mitch Karczewski (RIP). Mitch was a great guy, always calling me w/ bands and ideas, he wouldn’t stop talking about Mushroomhead, how I had to come out and see them play, etc… I was blown away and spent the next year flying and driving back out to Cleveland to try and connect with the band. It took a long time to get them to understand that Eclipse could help get them to the next level. Two years later, we released their XX album, and the band’s popularity just exploded from there forward. I’m very proud to have worked with them in the early stages of their career.
MC: Correct me if I am wrong, but didn’t the label shut down for awhile and if it did why was this and what led to you starting it back up again?

CP: Eclipse never shut down, that’s incorrect. From time to time I pull the plug on releasing new product for a few months or a year even, so we can focus on rebuilding infrastructure, websites, internal systems, etc… It’s difficult to make major changes like those when you have active bands touring, albums coming out, etc… During these times of restraint, we maintain catalog, still handle press inquiries, royalty payments to artists, etc… but we have never turned of the lights per se.
MC: Obviously the music world has changed big time since 1997 till today in 2013. Are you at all surprised the way the music scene has changed due to the internet?

CP: At first I was, but it’s impossible to say that change wasn’t inevitable. Technology always changes industry and there’s little anyone can do to prevent it. Digital has been both a blessing and a curse for the music biz from my perspective. In the past, we had an industry based on the sale of albums (physical CDs) which generated quite a lot of revenue per transaction. Then as digital took over, the industry changed to one based on the sale of song downloads, which generated substantially less, about 1/10th the amount of revenue per transaction, so we had to work hard to generate 10x as many sales to keep revenue where it was in order to continue developing new artists (that’s extremely expensive to do). Now I see the industry changing once again to one based upon the use of music, streaming services are replacing downloads, and this is going to turn the industry into one based upon the use of music, resulting in approximately 1/1,000th of the revenue we once had per transaction, so now we’re focusing on generating 1,000x as many transactions as before. With the internet this is possible; it’s just a matter of trying new things, improving on those that work, and constantly staying ahead of the curve. Fortunately we’ve done a good job so far.
MC: How many bands are currently on the label and are you looking to sign any new bands at all?

CP: We’re always looking to sign new bands, and while the catalog has some volume to is, currently we have 4 active artists (Blowsight, Saint Diablo, A Breach of Silence, and The Fail Safe Project) with a 5th in the pipeline (Our Last Enemy).
MC: What musical genres is the label right now?

CP: We focus primarily on metal, active rock, hard rock – basically anything that is guitar-driven and heavy. I’m all about heavy guitars.
MC: When a release comes out, how do you promote it?

CP: It really depends on a case-by case basis. Every release is different and therefore every marketing plan is unique and suited to that release. Generally speaking however, we do everything from radio promotion, advertising, social media, video marketing, press & publicity, retail co-op marketing (positioning programs at retail), etc…
MC: How do you use the internet nowadays and do you see the demise of Cds one day and what are your thoughts on downloading and file swapping?

CP: CDs are definitely becoming a thing of the past, yes. As a label, we do almost everything over the internet. With physical product we always had fulfillment issues at traditional retail, due to shelf space available and CDs selling out too quickly. With digital that’s no longer a problem, because inventory is virtual however digital changed the industry into one based upon the sale of singles opposed to albums which was difficult at first to accept.
MC: When you listen to a band, what is the 1st thing that caches your ear so to speak?

CP: I love good guitar sound. If the production of a band’s album isn’t 100% then I can’t even bear to listen to is, regardless of the songs. I like when a song sticks itself in my head and repeats over and over long after I turned off the music. That’s like my brain telling me "hey Chris, there’s something special about this band, I can remember the whole song after only 1 or two listens". That’s something special that happens for me with certain bands, and generally I can’t willfully control it, it just happens – and when it does, those are the bands I desire to sign.
MC: How far would you like to take the label and is it right now a full time job for you?

CP: I have been 100% self employed since 2002, Eclipse pays for itself, and pays me as well as the employees. It’s a full time thing and has been since 2002 so as far as goals for the label, just to keep turning out great records. I’m always open to all ideas from outside interest; you never know what kind of opportunities come across your table when you’re not seeking them!
MC: If asked, would you ever go to work for a bigger label and have you ever been asked?

CP: That’s an interesting question, because there’s a degree of stability that would come with working for a larger company. With Eclipse, I’ve deliberately kept it small, and manageable. With that said, keeping it small sometimes means I have to skip paying myself for a month from time to time in order to do what’s necessary to promote the latest album. Naturally I have obligations to Eclipse that couldn’t be ignored, contractual obligations and such but if the terms of such a deal made sense, and took care of the bands that Eclipse is responsible for, then anything is possible… like I said above, you never know what opportunities may present themselves in the future.
MC: What are some of your favorite concerts you have seen over the years and have you ever had a chance to see a band you signed live?

CP: My most recent favorite concert was Metallica at the Apollo Theatre last month. It was an invite-only event sponsored by Sirius Satellite Radio, and truly amazing because the venue was so small (1,500 capacity) and the band was so extremely excited to perform there. Some of the early Mushroomhead concerts were among my favorites as well, because they’re such a great live band, the show was amazing – probably any of the Halloween shows they did at the Agora back in 1998-2001, they were all amazing.
MC: Have you ever been overseas at all and if you have where did you go and how would somebody get any of your stuff over there?

CP: I’ve traveled personally on vacations to Egypt, Argentina, and such but as far as Eclipse’s stuff being available outside the US yes – we have distribution worldwide, so pretty much the same way they would get stuff here.
MC: Through the internet have you reconnected with anybody from the past, besides my old ass ha ha?

CF: That’s damn funny dude, I remember way back before the internet when we used to write to each other on paper THROUGH THE FRIGGING MAIL! Most of the people I dealt with back then are no longer in the biz, but some are, they’ve risen up and done their own things, made names for themselves, etc… I’ve kept in touch with lots of people who left the biz, mostly through Facebook.
MC: What are some mistakes that you think you have made over the years and any band that you wished you signed, but did not?

CP: Oh there’s a few bands that I had the opportunity to sign, and passed, then regretted it. I’ve missed some good bands, and I think any A&R rep who says they haven’t is a liar. As A&R people, signing bands to a label we do not have the ability to predict the future, we can only attempt to predict what people will enjoy based upon our own musical taste. The second you start signing bands just because they sound like some band that is at the top of the charts, you’re doomed. That’s not what A&R is about… A&R is about discovering the next big thing BEFORE it’s exploded. Before the masses adopt and accept it.
MC: If you could go back and do things differently what would you do?

CP: I don’t really have any regrets about the way Eclipse has operated or things I’ve done. Some things could have been done differently, and may have resulted in more (or less) favorable results, however there’s no way of knowing. I’ve got to say that I am proud of what I’ve done because every action has shaped me and Eclipse into what it is today. With that said, I still want to grow the company, move forward, discover and release more great music.
MC: Plug any websites you have.

CP: www.eclipserecords.com & www.streetteam.com
MC: What are some future plans for the label?

CP: We just released a new album by A Breach of Silence. Next up in early 2014 is an album from Our Last Enemy, then after that a live DVD/CD combo by Blowsight and a new album from The Fail Safe Project. Saint Diablo just finished recording their next album, as well so that’s on deck for 2014 as well.
MC: Any last words to wrap this up?

CP Thanks for your interest in Eclipse and myself. Please follow us on Twitter @eclipserecords and like us on Facebook – anyone who sends us $2 for postage will receive a free compilation CD in the mail (USA only) details available on our Facebook page. Thanks!