Originally published in ‘zine issue #15, 1996
In Defense of Some Unwise Mouth Grime
by Relapse Stormtrooper Jeff Wagner
So I was on the phone recently with this ‘zine’s humble editor, Richard, and as usual we were discussing various label affairs. In the course of our conversation, we got on the topic of the tiny pockets of anti-Relapse complainers that I come across from time to time. Basically, as the e-mail reader/responder and the publicity guy, I seem to encounter the complaints people have about our label sometimes and find myself having to correct people’s misconceptions occasionally. Normally, you expect this kind of thing, and if any anybody had a really good reason why we suck, I’d just be humble and not make it an issue. However, I haven’t had proof of one good argument yet as to why Relapse sucks. Richard, knowing what this company’s all about, insisted that he give me a chance to refute some of these ridiculous claims in this very ‘zine. Though I’m reluctant to spend a lot of time defending this company (I’d rather work toward its progress), I accepted. Hopefully, there are some of those detractors out there reading this. As for the thousands of people who faithfully support this label (and the entire metal underworld) and consistently use our mail order service and listen to bands on the Relapse and Nuclear Blast America roster, thank you, and skip over this rant. This is not directed at you.
Before I get into it, Richard wanted me to introduce myself to readers unfamiliar with my present (and past) activities so as to give you a clue as to where I’m coming from and how I got here. I’ll keep it simple and as brief as possible.
I’m a 26-year-old freakus with an almost unhealthy obsession with King Crimson and Voivod. I’ve been a devotee of metal since I first latched onto KISS at age seven. I’ve played in bands who recorded demos and played across the Midwest. I DJed two-and-a-half years of a metal specialty show at University of Iowa’s KRUI, during which time I began writing for any ‘zine that would take my contributions. I began my own ‘zine called Symposium in late ‘92 and am currently working on the 7th issue. In late ’94 I was given the opportunity to join the Relapse cult (which is basically what we are in this rather lame town) as the “national publicity director,” a fancy name for the guy who communicates with ‘zines, magazines, and other publications, as well as handling several other duties.
My life is music; music is my life. It’s such a large part of my daily existence that I would never align myself with an organization that would do anything to rip off the scene or just make a mockery of the metal underground. That’s why I’m at Relapse: I believe in this company’s goals and ideas and only see its progress as an overwhelming positive for not only the label but for the entire metal community as a whole.
Now, to address five of the most frequent complaints I’ve heard concerning Relapse as a label and mail order service. Again, this is for the scattered few who feel they’ve been wronged by the label’s growth from a small, two-man hobby to a major force in the ‘90s metal community, rather than to the thousands who continue to support and believe in this organization.
1) “Relapse is a rip-off”
Okay, that’s pretty ambiguous, but I’ve heard it stated, and can only guess that this has been uttered for two reasons: a) I get a finite amount of promotional materials (we are an independent, y’know), and I sometimes have to refuse service to various ‘zines, based on circulation, content, and general attitude. The bottom line is, if your ‘zine isn’t being serviced, it’s due to one of three things: the circulation doesn’t justify servicing; the magazine isn’t interested in our open-minded stance on music and life in general; and/or it’s just a crappy, poor excuse for a ‘zine. If I don’t service your ‘zine with “free stuff,” it’s not a personal thing but a decision I have to make, as I have to make our promotional tools stretch as far as I can; b) Certain bands and small labels have complained that they haven’t gotten paid for consignment items, when the truth is that their stuff hasn’t sold one damned unit, and we’re just keeping them on our shelves in hopes that even one or two items sell. If they don’t sell, don’t blame us. We’ve done our part by including it in the catalog and offering it to our customers. Maybe if the bands or labels did some promotion, someone out there with money to spend would be aware that it exists. Call us, talk to our accountant, we’re not hiding anything. Just be a little more assertive with your product. We’ve got our own label and bands to push without worrying that there are 50 Disintigrationator demos collecting copious amounts of dust on our shelves.
2) “Relapse is betraying the underground by taking ads out in RIP …”
… and Metal Maniacs and S.O.D. and Pit and Ill Literature and Sepulchral Voice and Alternative Press and Industrial Nation, etc. What we’re doing is covering all the bases. Just because we advertise in stuff like RIP doesn’t necessarily mean we agree with the bands they choose to cover. What we’re doing is attempting to sway all the alterna-wankers who worship that magazine our way. “Hey, you in the CIV shirt. If you thought Weezer was heavy, wait till you hear Mortician!” It can be done.
3) “Relapse charges too much money for stuff in their catalog”
Someone recently had the audacity to claim that we bought our CDs for $6 wholesale and therefore are blindly ripping people off. I don’t recall ever having seen this person around the office, doing the ordering for our catalog, but I’m so blinded by greed that I probably just didn’t see him yet. Sarcasm aside, some prices for which we sell CDs, i.e., $18-$30, are merely reflections of what we buy them for, and let’s just say that we don’t get the best prices on some of these imported, rare, hard-to-find CDs. Remember that postage is built into the prices, as we do not charge an additional penny for postage on orders anywhere within the States. If this seems facetious, spend your money at a much more “trustworthy,” “honest” mail order service, say, Wild Rags.
4) “The Casey Keraminas credit scam”
If you’re reading this, Casey, this is not a personal attack, but a genuinely truthful reaction to your conspiracy theory in Metal Core #20 (by the way, if we owe you money, why haven’t you bothered to call our accountant as I suggested?). Casey claims that Relapse pulls this scam that we put non-existent items in our catalog just to look “cool” and entice people into buying them, only to send them credit slips. Yes, we send credit slips. No, we never put items in our catalog that we cannot get or do not carry. Do you realize the trouble we’d be getting into if we did something that idiotic?
This is where the myth comes from: a customer calls up and enquires about the availability of a particular item. If it’s in stock, we tell the customer we have the item, and the customer then sends an order in. A week later, we receive the order and process it. By this time, the item in question has sold out. If no alternates are listed, a credit slip is issued. It’s simple, quite fair, rather innocent, and not quite the evil, greedy conspiracy it’s been made out to be. The quick disappearance of certain items happens most often with rare, hard-to-find, in-demand items like, for example, the Morbid/Mayhem split LP/CD, the Old Lady Drivers LP, Xysma’s First & Magical, and many others.
5) “Relapse is only in it for the money; they’re commercializing grindcore and death metal”
It infuriates me to think that there are people out there ignorant enough to believe that this label began with the intention of making tons of cash. Matt and Bill didn’t sign bands like Mortician, Incantation, Rottrevore, or Deceased to make a gold mine. You do it purely out of love for extreme death metal. The label has definitely expanded to include, dare I say it, more “accessible” (i.e., not as punishingly extreme) bands like Amorphis and Mindrot, but, there again, these bands were only taken on because Matt and Bill believe in the music, not the money. Matt and Bill would certainly keep themselves immersed in music of extreme varieties should Relapse crumble tomorrow. We’re all fans above and beyond anything else. Real extreme fans should be thankful that we’re sticking to our guns and not just singing bands according to the trends as many independent labels around us have done. The fact that Relapse is good at getting our stuff out to the masses has nothing to do with us being “commercial.” Just by having a UPC code on a product makes it, by definition, “commercial.” If our detractors were to throw out everything they own with a “commercial” UPC code on it, they’d own nothing and eat even less.
Thanks to Richard for letting me spew on behalf of Relapse. No apology to those who just didn’t grasp the Corporate Death satire. The unkind mind grind rolls on. ■