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Dark Harvest Records
Daniel Paris runs a record label called Dark Harvest Records and I love interviewing record labels and stuff so I sent him some questions and here is what he said to them:
MC: Tell me a little about yourself. What sort of childhood did you have and did you come from a big family?
DP: I actually had a pretty rough time growing up. We lived in Connecticut and my parents had nothing but problems until they eventually split up. That didn't make things any easier as my "step dad" was an alcoholic who liked to take everything out on me and my brother. My dad worked 2 and 3 jobs all the time so we never really got to see him much. My step dad tried to kill my dad one time and my dad kicked his ass all over the house. It was fucking crazy! At the time I was very young and really could not do anything about it. I was pretty scared of my step dad. After all this my dad got custody of us and moved us down to North Carolina. Things where tough because we were broke and barely got by. I moved out when I was 15 and starting working to make my own money. As far as a big family? Na, I only consider the immediate people as part of the family. No one really tried to help us out during the hard times; unless there was someone helping my dad out that I didn't know about then. I do have to say that my Aunt Katherine took care of me and my brother a lot and I have a lot to thank her for, the things she taught us about respect and love. She was an unbelievable woman who loved children and just had a tremendous heart. I could go on forever about all the stuff that went on but I think we'll quit it here.
MC: Were you into music as a young boy and how did you come to discover music? What were some of the 1st bands that you heard?
DP: Ha Ha, actually the first band I remember hearing was........damn.....Bon Jovi! lol. The kids down stairs from us in Connecticut used to play that and the Scorpions a lot. That is pretty much where my discovery of music kicked in. The first band I had heard that really made me love music was AC/DC. I remember watching TV with my brother and the video "For Those About To Rock" came on. From that point on ...all I wanted to do was ROCK! I bugged my dad to get me some tapes of them. I think the first one I actually got was Back in Black. I still love AC/DC today, just a great fucking rock band!
MC: Who was the one that led you to discover the metal side of music? What did you think of that form of music when you heard it?
DP: The first metal band I heard was Testament. My cousin lived across from my Aunts and we used to stay there all the time. One day I told him I liked AC/DC and he said, man let me give you a lesson in music! Check this out. He handed me the LP for The Legacy (Testament). I was just in awe of the cover artwork more than anything at the time, I listened to a few tracks of the album and I really didn't get it at the time but I thought my cousin was cool so I would hang with him and Jam that record all the time. Keep in mind I was like 7 or 8 at the time.
MC: What were some early bands that you were into and what was the 1st concert you saw and what was the first live band to blow you away so to speak?
DP: Prior to becoming a teenager I really liked AC/DC, Scorpions, Twisted Sister, and Judas Priest. When I became a teenager I got into a lot of thrash bands like the kings of thrash SLAYER!!!! I actually went into a Woolworths store and was looking at the tape section. I saw a cassette that was called "Thrash Metal" it had bands like The Great Kat, Death Angel, Megadeth and Slayer on it. I didn't have any money so I stole it! lol That was the first time I heard SLAYER, The song was Evil Has No Boundaries and from then on I was a Slayer fan, and just so no one says I didn’t pay the artists cause I stole that tape, I have brought everyone of those albums that the songs where from. Hell I bout Show No Mercy at least 4 times! Other artists I was into were, Testament, Megadeth, Ozzy, Black Sabbath, King Diamond, and way too many to name. I have seen tons and tons of bands live, mainly local and regional type bands because I would go to live shows regularly and hang out at the clubs and shit. The one band that blew me away live was Testament. They were fucking tight musically and they didn't miss a lick! This is when they had James Murphy and Jon Dette performing with them. I must say since I’m on the subject that I don't know why Jon Dette has not stayed with any of the bands he played with. This dude is a killer drummer
MC: Where you lived was there a decent metal scene and did you have a group of friends that were also into metal? Were there stores around your area that carried metal stuff?
DP: Actually as a teenager in the 1990’s there were more alternative things going on at the clubs. I actually hung out with all the metal heads at the school I went to and I'd say there where about 30 of us total. lol I lived in the country! But I had met a lot of metal heads at the clubs prior to the alternative thing kickin in so we used to through basement parties or house parties and jam nothing but metal or have some metal bands play .I even played in a band at that time and we never really did anything but play some small shows and parties. We used to cover shit like Danzig, Led Zeppelin, Slayer, Megadeth and so on. It's funny how when the media talks about that time they act like metal was dead or something. I don't know what the hell they were doing in 1994 but I was blasting nothing but metal! As far as music stores, There was this awesome music store in Greensboro, NC called B&B cds. None of the cases had a cd in them. You would pick one out and take it to the counter and you could sit and listen to the whole thing before you bought it. I always thought that was cool, but we all know you don't need to do that with metal, only radio bands write one decent song and the rest of the album sucks! hahaha That placed closed a few years ago, as is every other fucking music store around here.
MC: Did you ever read fanzines or do any tape trading at all?
DP: I did very little tape trading because I really came in on the end of it. When cd's came out I switched over everything to cd and sold all my cassette tapes. I used to read a webzine called Eternal Frost; I also read a lot of the metal mags when they were out. Mainly I would just hang with people and ask them what they were listening to and if I liked it I would buy it.
MC: How did you come up with the idea for a label and did you work any prior labels to Dark Harvest? How long did it take you to make the label a reality from the time you thought about it till your 1st release?
DP: I came up with the idea for the label when I was booking bands. I would do tons of shows, booking relapse bands, the end records bands, lifeforce records as well. I used to see so many awesome bands that no one gave a shit about. I decided to drop the booking thing and work on starting a label. I never worked for any label on the record label side on did a lot of booking with different artists, but I had learned so much about labels by doing this, I figured I would give it a shot and learn the rest as I go. I believe I came up with the label idea around 2004. I actually got the license to do business in April of 2006. So basically it took 2 years to plan and work the ideas around in my head as well as try to build a team to work with me to make it happen. Our first actual release was my own band Worst Case Scenario which was released in 2006. I figured before I would sign an artist I would try things out on my own band to get the feel for things.
MC: Looking back now was getting the label up and started harder than you thought it was going to be?
DP: Actually, getting a label started business wise is not hard to do. Running it the way I want to...well.... that's a different story. My goal with the label is to help artists progress and move on to something bigger. What we want out of it is to grow into something bigger. Our way of business is pretty much unheard of in the music industry. We are on the same level as our artists. We are the 5th member of the band sort of speak. We work with our artists, we don't own them and we don't own their music, of course we have rights to push it and sell it, but it’s theirs! Everyone involved in this label since day one has been in a band or booking bands or something. Everyone here understands the struggles of being a metal musician. Is it hard to do? Yes, but we would rather have bands out there saying these cats are cool as shit, and they work with you, it’s a great starting point for any artist. That’s what we want to hear from our artists.
MC: Take me through the steps it took to make your label a reality. Do you have any other people helping you out?
DP: Basic business steps really. Get some cash put back first. It’s not cheap to manufacture cd's and shirts and merch. As well as pay your taxes, business license fees. etc. I actually read a ton of books about the industry before I got started. I also was looking into the legal sides of it as well. Then get your business license and fictitious name license. These secure your business as legitament one. Once you have them, you’re in business. Find a great band that you think will do well. Then get them in the studio and put together a great product. Then push the hell out of it. That’s it. As far as people helping out we have had several over the years now. But at the moment, my business partner and good friend Jay Burton, as well as my good friend Andy Wilson. My son Darren Paris also helps as well with packaging and inventory. Jay has been in the business for some time going back to booking and promoting artists in the 90's. Andy is new to it. He has worked with bands as far as merch sales and live performance footage. We're a small crew but everyone works hard to make up for the lack of help. It's a little easier to keep it small and have control over everything. The more people the more headaches I always say. Lol
MC: Tell me about the 1st band that you signed and were their other bands that back when you were going to form the label turn you down because you weren't off the ground yet so to speak? What was the feeling like getting that 1st release in your hand? Do you just print cds or do you do vinyl too?
DP: The first artist we had besides my own band, hmmm... I am going to say Blood Tribe. We had some artists before them but they pretty much left me hanging cause I wasn't big enough for them, or I couldn't dish out the money they wanted me too. Blood Tribe has been the hardest working band we've had. They do tons of shows, and really work to push themselves as well as the label. I am very thankful for them. They are still on the label I might add. So check them out! One thing about most bands is they think, we sign to a label and BOOM! We're done, they do all the work and we just go play and make tons of money and bang chicks! Ha-ha. Well unfortunately it really doesn’t work that way. When you sign to a small independent you have to work twice as hard. Now you've got someone backing you to help, but to get to the next level you gotta work your ass off. In the words of Bon Scott “It's a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll" So yeah we got stuck a couple times from bands. I admit I was pissed about it at the time, but I have now been doing this long enough to know that will happen and it doesn’t matter. You just look for the next artist who may take it more serious and be thankful that there is a label out there willing to help push them a little father in the dream of music. As far as releases go, right now we are only pressing cd's. There has been some talk about vinyl, but until an artist can show a large movement of cd's I see no need in pressing vinyl. Maybe we'll do a collectors pressing soon. Now, getting the first release in my hands? Wow! It felt great! I knew then that I did it! I had manufactured my first label release with our name on it. I still get that same feeling whenever I get a new artist’s cd's done. I love what I do and those moments are the ones that inspire me to work a little harder, push a little harder. New music from a great new artist. Pure satisfaction.
MC: When you listen to a band what do you look for? In your eyes and ears what makes a good song?
DP: To be honest, I really don't look for anything in particular. I just listen. Sometimes I hear something and say; man these guys have tons of potential. That may be it. No real reason, just something I hear in the music. Then I image it with better recording quality and more experienced musicianship. That’s why I love the second release. Most labels and fans hate the second release. That is because the artist had their whole life to write the first one. But in that sense, most labels have a time period before the second release and it's usually a short time after the first, and you add in touring and everything it’s hard to work on your material. We don't do that. We do have a time frame, but it more when the artist is ready, we hope its 2 years at the most, but we'll stretch it a bit if they need it. So I don't really know how to tell what it is, I just know, that if I like it, that’s all that matters.
MC: How did you end up with the name and were any other names considered? How many bands are on the label right now and how many more would you like to have on it?
DP: I used to run a booking agency called Dark Asylum Talent prior to starting the label. When I decided to start the label, I knew first thing to do was come up with an awesome name. I had a couple other names in mind like Wish I was Dead Records, and Double Barrell Records, but I wanted something to kind of explain the label and Dark goes with the metal, so I stuck with that, then Harvest came to mind as what I want to do is grow young artists so they fit good together and that’s it.
Right now we have ten active artists on the label and 2 non active. We are always looking for new artists but right now we won't be picking up anyone until the newer acts have their releases out and are performing live to promote the releases. But like I said, we are always checking out artists.
MC: How do you go about promoting each band? Have you ever signed a band off seeing them live or seeing a video on say You Tube?
DP: We sign artists in all ways possible. As long as we like them. Doesn't matter if it’s live, You Tube, mp3 , epk, physical press kits whatever. If we like the artist then we'll pick them up. As for promoting we try to do it, internet promotion, Print magazine ads, interviews and reviews, we make promo cards that go out to cd shops and in packages where customers buy a product from us, we send them to the artists to pass out, we go to shows and promote, sell cd's out the back of cars, in stores, online, whatever. I try to hit the streets more than anything, but the best way to promote is to play live
MC: What sort of music to do sign and do you have any short term or long term goals for the label? Would you release something that had been previously released before and was out of print from say an old thrash or death metal band?
DP: Let me say that we like all styles of metal. We have artists that are more traditional metal " HEROD" and straight up Death metal " UNITED BY HATE" .It all comes down to, I know I keep saying it, Ha ha... do we like it. We have definitely been talking to some artists that have titles no longer under rights to other labels and we have been thinking of picking up some releases we like and making them available for the public. I have even been talking to a friend of mine who was in a band back in the 90's that wasn't well know but I used to hang with them and watch them live, and I totally dig their shit so I am sure I will be releases that. When it comes to goals...We don't care to become some major label and have the headache that goes with that. We support up and coming musicians so it like starting new with every release and artist. If any of them really take off and decide to stick with us and we all grow together that’s fine, but I feel that Dark Harvest is something special and underground and maybe it's not for everyone, but hell, that’s what metals about!
MC: If somebody wants to get something on your label is any of the stuff in stores or is getting on-line the best way to get it?
DP: You can order are titles from physical stores, very few actually stock them though. Cd stores are history. They are closing left and right. We have turned our focus more towards the internet and using www.darkharvestrecords.com as our main resource. We also have a Facebook store, etc. It sucks cause I love record stores, especially the ones with metal tee shirts and tab books and shit , but those days are over, people are downloading, burning, whatever.
MC: How do you and the label take advantage of the internet? Do you have a bunch of bands sending you stuff all the time?
DP: We use the internet as our way of telling tons of people in a short time what is going on with the label. It’s a real useful tool for that, we also have free download compilations featuring a track from every artist and that is a good way to get people into the bands. Besides that, I hate the internet hahaha! I always have artists sending in material or sending tracks through email or media fire or something, it’s cool, cause I get to check out bands all over the world whether I like them or not, I hear so much new music! Even some of the artists I think are good but not what I'm looking for I'll shoot their info to some friends of mine that run small labels, so maybe they can hook them up. I would love to see all these great bands on a bigger level with us or not.
MC: If somebody wanted to start up a label what advice would you give them? Do you get all your stuff done at the same pressing plant?
DP: I’d say work as an intern for a label first. Get some hands on. Try booking some artists live performances and see how that end works. The more you know about the business the better you are. I don’t really treat DHR as a business, though it is. I always wanted it to be more personal, and I believe that our artists are our friends in life and not just some band we promote. When it comes to pressing I have only been using one company since day one. I like it that way because we have a more personal relationship than jumping around to whoever can do it cheapest. Plus the quality is awesome and I know what a good job they do, I don't have to worry that something may be wrong and have to deal with a bunch of bullshit.
MC: Take me through what a typical day is like for you and do you at least make a decent living with the label or do you have a regular job and about how many hours are spent doing label stuff?
DP: I still work a regular job. The money the label makes goes back to the label and the artists. We have the highest percentage rate in the industry that we pay our artists. They wouldn't get anything from a bigger label until they really put some units out there. When I was booking artists I heard all these stories about how they made no money and struggled everyday to get by. We work with our artists and work around their schedules and plan for them and their everyday life whether its work or family matters. This is not always a good thing for us if we put in a bunch of cash and have to wait forever to make it back, but we have families and that should always come first. I put in 5 hours a day on the label mostly. I usually sleep about 4 hours a night HAHA but I love to do it so that is what matters. We have a lot of great talent now and I believe we can make it where this is all we do, but I have 3 kids and I need to keep things rolling in, I can't take a bad week cash wise, so right now I'm sticking to working the regular job as well.
MC: Do you do the mail order thing and do you trade with other labels and stuff and if you do have you ever been ripped off by anybody?
DP: I do mailorder and trades. There is one label that owes me a bunch of cash but I have quit dealing with them. No need to mention names. It's just poor taste to treat your metal brethren like that. We all love the music and we all want to make it, but in metal, you have to stick together to make it. If you trade with me, as soon as I get your package I put mine in the mail. I like Relapse; Stygian Crypt is cool as well. I only work with a few labels at the moment but I am hoping to build more relationships this year.
MC: When you sign bands is just for one release and then you go from there? Are most bands for the most part pretty easy to work with?
DP: In our contracts we go for 2 releases. I like to start off with and EP to get the artist out there first. The second would be a full length and that would determine if we'll do anymore releases with them. How cool they are is the biggest factor though. I have dealt with some "Rockstar" mentalities and that just blows. No one we work with is on the "Rockstar" level whether they think they are or not. The ones who understand that you don't just put out a record and sell a million copies are the ones that we like to work with. Of course we would love to see our artist selling a ton of copies but there’s a ton of competition out there and there are bigger labels with more money. The big money labels get the interviews and write ups with the big mags and we are left in the dust because we are not spending 10 grand advertising with the mags. It's all about the money in the industry which really sucks because it's supposed to be about the music!
MC: What is your favorite band and favorite release and why.
DP: I love all our bands and all our releases or I wouldn't work with them, but if I had to pick a favorite release right now it would be Psilocybe Larvae "Non- Existence". This album has it all, heavy, melodic, screaming vocals, clean vocals, everything! It's just a killer record! You have to check it out for yourself because everyone has their own taste in music.
Favorite band? I have to go with Blood Tribe. They been with me the longest and on a personal level they are some cool cats. They don't whine about anything and they are very patient and know what it takes at this level. I really think they should be on a way bigger level right now, but they have just not gotten the breaks they deserve yet.
MC: If you had the power to sign any 5 bands, what bands would they be and why?
DP: Whoa, I could think of a million bands I would love to have. I will skip the gigantic ones everyone knows because that would be no fun.
Dark Funeral. They are my favorite black metal band. They are true black metal! Corpse paint, spikes, raw material, old school sound. Just pure fucking blasphemous black metal! Embalmer. Just sick Death Metal. They had an underground series release with Relapse back in the day, not sure if they are still a band. There was blood everywhere is just one sick record and I think this guy invented the pig style death vocal without even knowing it. Not the crappy sounding pig vocals you might think. Lol but he did the lowest dying pig sound I ever heard haha! Vision Of Disorder. Cleary an overlooked hardcore/metal band. They had the nastiest vocals and this dude was screaming his ass off, not using the PA system for power but using his vocal chords as if they were a machine. They changed their style quite a bit in the end, it was more radio friendly in my opinion and I don't think anyone liked it that they changed but I totally love that record "From Bliss to Devastation". Flotsam and Jetsam. I think these guys where really over looked in the thrash scene. Everyone talks about how Jason Newsted from Gay tallica played with them. They put out some killer shit without him, they just didn't get the recognition and I still believe that they have their best record in them. I want to be the one to bring it out of 'em! Soilent Green. Just nasty New Orleans metal, with a technical twist. Take the down tempo sludge and add some math metal and there you go. I would love to just have a record from them with the DHR logo on it to say I did it!
MC: Where do you see the underground scene in 5 years and do you think eventually all music will just end up on the internet?
DP: In 5 years, yeah the internet will have sucked all the life out of music. People will be pro tooling the farts and putting on record and some slob would buy it and convince a bunch of idiots that it’s the best thing in the world. But I believe the true underground metal scene will always be there, Hell, I have seen bands that never made a record, only played one show, never played a show just had open practices. I think one day bands will just say fuck it and only play live because you can’t copy that experience. Kids these days are missing out cause they watch the shit on you tube instead of going and watching it live, getting that feeling of the amps blasting in your ears and the drums pounding your chest, meeting the hot ass metal chicks at the bar and partying all night! That’s what it’s all about! I could care less about the internet; I have to use it to help my artists become more known to people. I really believe that downloaded music is just a dead track in your hand. I have to have the artwork man.
MC: Would you ever work for a big indie label if asked? What are some things you like to do when not doing label stuff and what sort of non metal music do you like?
DP: I would definitely work for a bigger label. I love metal music and all I want to do is make a living doing what I love and I would love to have the opportunity to see how the big dogs roll. HAHAHA. I couldn’t work for a label that does rap or country shit, it would have to be just metal and hardcore.
I really don't like to do anything besides listen to music and drink beer. I don’t really watch TV unless it’s that metal show or something about metal. Yep, I’m that crazy. I do like to go to live shows and I do that on the regular. Just saw Hatebreed, Judas Priest, and several other artists recently at a couple different gigs. Non metal music huh? You trying to get me in trouble! LOL Just gonna list a few bands here...... RadioHead, Duran Duran. I like a lot of the 80's retro shit as well.
MC: Are fanzines and webzines still a big part of the underground?
DP: I am not sure to be honest with you. I think people these days are too lazy to read. If it doesn't have flash or moving pictures I don’t think many people are reading the articles. I mean, no one ever comes up to me and says, dude! Check out this article I read with so and so in it! It’s always; check out this new video on You Tube or some shit. Lame. Really Lame. But that’s the way it is.
MC: Plug any websites you have.
DP: www.darkharvestrecords.com or
MC: Plans for the label for 2012 and beyond?
DP: Put out killer releases from the best underground band no one knows about and help them get heard! Keep growing is the main plan, just put together a great roster, have everyone working together and spread the word of the underground metal scene!
MC: Daniel I am out of questions. Horns up for the interviews and any last words?
DP: Thanks for having interest in Dark Harvest Records and the underground metal scene. I wish more people would take the time to check out the underground bands and labels, and stop acting like they are underground fans cause they ripped of a Finntroll cd , or saw a Black Funeral video on You Tube. Actually go buy their records so they can continue to make killer music. Become part of the scene. Go see some live shows! Support these bands! Thanks again for the interview and hails to you and your readers!