Label Q&A: Deathwish Inc.

In everyone’s life, there are those few moments where events align and push people toward their destiny. For Converge singer Jacob Bannon and tour manager Tre McCarthy, one of those was the sudden demise of the Howling Bull America label in 2000. Bannon already was a decade deep in fronting Converge, and McCarthy was traveling constantly to manage BoySetsFire, Bane, Reach the Sky, and Disembodied—so the idea of starting a label of their own was one that had been batted around for some time.

With Howling Bull gone, the fate of the now-infamous Converge / Hellchild split hung in the balance. It turned out to be the motivation that the two needed to stop talking about doing a label and actually put out a record. Nearly 15 years and more than 100 releases later, Deathwish Inc. has grown into one of the most respected hardcore labels on the planet.

But despite the changes that a decade-and-a-half have made in their lives, Bannon and McCarthy, both hardcore lifers, continue to operate from a place of creativity and dedication to what they and the bands on their label love.

What was the impetus for doing Deathwish?

TM: I met [Converge guitarist and owner of GodCity Studio] Kurt Ballou first. [Bane guitarist] Aaron Dalbec and I met him at a 411 show in Boston in 1991 while he was peddling Converge demos in the crowd between bands. We became friends with Kurt, and shortly thereafter, our bands played a show together in Worcester.

I’ve been friends with Jake since. Jake and I were on the other side of the fence from labels. He was dealing with them as an artist, and I was dealing with them as a tour manager. Together, we felt that we had a fresh perspective of what bands need and what a label can do for its bands.

A lot of people think that they’d love to own a record label, but few probably know what goes into it. What’s the biggest headache of owning a label like Deathwish?

JB: I don’t see any of it as a headache. It can be stress-inducing for sure, but it is a labor of love, just as is making music and art. I wouldn’t have it any other way. The aspects of the label that Tre manages (financial things, etc.), I find to be more difficult. The “staff” is here regular business hours for the most part, while Tre works seemingly 24 hours a day from his phone or laptop. We stick to what we are good at.

TM: The headaches that come along with the territory are from the boring and mundane tasks that no one really thinks about when they think about running an awesome, super-cool record label like Deathwish. I have to work on the schedule of the people that I work for, my bands. So if a band is on tour in Europe, and they are texting me at 4 AM, then I am working at 4 AM. I might have slippers and Deathwish sweatpants on, while half asleep on the couch, but this is what it is.

Owning an independent record label is awesome, but it is a lot of work. I love it—period. I have the best job, but it’s not a cakewalk.

Deathwish has a distinct visual style as you, Jake, do much of the album art. Is that something you’ve purposefully set out to do?

JB: I feel that we have a level of quality with the packaging and presentation of our releases, but they all carry their own unique character. For example, a Wovenhand release does not look like a 100 Demons record, but I designed both of them. They are just the best of what they can possibly be. I will create artwork for a band if they ask me to, but I will never require it or anything. As someone who cares about our releases, I just want to them all to be the best they can possibly be.

Deathwish Inc.

Deathwish Inc.

Deathwish Inc.

Deathwish Inc.

Deathwish Inc.

Deathwish Inc.

Deathwish Inc.

Deathwish Inc.

Deathwish Inc.

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Interview: Salem metalcore vets Converge send home the guests for an explosive new album

This content appears in ALARM #40. Subscribe here to get your copy!

Converge: All We Love We Leave Behind (Epitaph, 10/9/12)

“Sadness Comes Home”

Converge: “Sadness Comes Home”

Being one of the most consistently devastating and innovative hardcore bands on the planet doesn’t come easy. In fact, it requires countless hours of hard work, a highly disciplined work ethic, and a level of stamina that even the youngest punks in the game can’t always muster.

For nearly 20 years, Salem, Massachusetts-based metalcore titan Converge has continually pushed its intense sound to new and progressively head-spinning extremes, hammering out 90-second explosions of speed and energy on one track, while delving into a gut-wrenching mixture of emotion and melody the next. Though expectations are best left wide open when approaching a new album from the group, two things remain constant: it’ll never be half-assed, and it most certainly won’t be boring.

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ALARM’s 50 Favorite Albums of 2012

Another year, another torrential downpour of albums across our desks. (Not literally — our insurance doesn’t cover that.)

As always, we encountered way too much amazing music. How does anyone keep track of it all? It’s good that we have this magazine, because our mushy brains can’t keep up…

(Text by the ALARM crew. Albums are in chronological order.)

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Q&A: High on Fire

This content appears in the July/August iPad edition of ALARM Magazine. Download it for free and keep reading!

High on Fire: De Vermis MysteriisHigh on Fire: De Vermis Mysteriis (Entertainment One, 4/3/12)

“Fertile Green”

High on Fire: “Fertile Green”

Oakland sludge trio High on Fire has kept the heavy-metal flame alive and burning for 14 years, having formed following guitarist/singer Matt Pike’s time in doom/stoner group Sleep. And with each new chapter in the band’s scorching legacy, Pike, drummer Des Kensel, and bassist Jeff Matz further challenge what a power trio can do. Somehow, over time, they’ve managed to grow louder, more epic, and even catchier.

The band’s sixth album, De Vermis Mysteriis, in many ways is classic High on Fire. Recorded with Converge’s Kurt Ballou, it balances punishing sludge riffs with epic solos and high-octane tempos. The first half alone is an exercise in ferocity: “Bloody Knuckles” pounds out a hook-laden variation of the band’s classic churn; “Fertile Green” lunges into an ultra-menacing stomp; “Madness of an Architect” taps into its Sabbath-y roots for old-fashioned doom.

Here Kensel speaks about going back to basics, writing in the studio, and “Eureka!” moments. Read More

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Review: Generation of Vipers’ Howl and Filth

Generation of Vipers: Howl and Filth

Generation of Vipers: Howl and Filth (Translation Loss, 6/5/12)


[audio:|titles=Generation of Vipers: “Eternal”]

With a pair of members in US Christmas and one in A Storm of Light, Tennessee trio Generation of Vipers has kept quiet for the past four or five years. But the sludgy post-hardcore three-piece finally self-released its third album, Howl and Filth, last year, and now it gets a proper push and release from Translation Loss.

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Review: Torche’s Harmonicraft

Torche: Harmonicraft (Volcom)


[audio:|titles=Torche: “Kicking”]

There’s no actual rule saying that heavy bands have to dilute their heaviness when they indulge in melody — or, for that matter, when they put cutesie My Little Pony-looking dinosaurs on their album covers. For whatever reason, the nerve to attempt either still is rare, as Miami four-piece Torche demonstrates with its third full-length, Harmonicraft.

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50 Unheralded Albums from 2011

In just one more trip around the sun, another swarm of immensely talented but under-recognized musicians has harnessed its collective talents and discharged its creations into the void. This list is but one fraction of those dedicated individuals — admittedly, based mostly in the Western world — who caught our ears with some serious jams.

For us, 2011 was another year of taking in as much as we could and sharing the best with you. Next year, however, will be a homecoming of sorts, a return to rock-‘n’-roll roots. We’ll soon be able to share the projects that we have in store — across multiple mediums — but for now, dig into this rock-focused list of must-own albums.

Presented in chronological order.

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Q&A: Young Widows

Young Widows: In and Out of Youth and LightnessYoung Widows: In and Out of Youth and Lightness (Temporary Residence, 4/12/11)

Young Widows: “Future Heart”

[audio:|titles=Young Widows: “Future Heart”]

Though not a strict departure from previous material, the new album by post-hardcore outfit Young Widows displays a different phase of the band’s career. Calling it a “progression” might apply regressive traits to its first two albums, but In and Out of Youth and Lightness turns down the Cro-Magnon wallop and continues the band’s history of accomplished noise rock.

Its last album, Old Wounds, was a mostly live recording by Kurt Ballou (Converge, Coliseum, Pygmy Lush). In contrast, the new album was produced by the band and Kevin Ratterman (My Morning Jacket) at The Funeral Home in its hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. Guitarist and vocalist Evan Patterson joined us to answer a few questions about the band’s songwriting process and what bands people should check out.

How do you describe your music?

I don’t, but if you were a clerk at a gas station, I would tell you that we are a rock band. That’s as far as I can go.

On the new album, there’s a bit of a weird blues influence — less Jesus Lizard pummel and more of a Liars atmospheric vibe. What did you want to do new or different? What did you want to keep the same?

Music has to progress. There are no specific influences. The goal with this album was to find my voice, and that was wholeheartedly achieved. Lyrically, [they’re] the heaviest and most affective songs that I’ve created. Old blues has that same effect on me. It speaks to me. The bridge between modern rock music and blues is a short one, and it’s inevitable that those characteristics will be riding in the same vehicle to achieve certain goals.

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Record Review: Trap Them’s Darker Handcraft

Trap Them: Darker HandcraftTrap Them: Darker Handcraft (Prosthetic, 3/18/11)

Trap Them: “The Facts”

[audio:|titles=Trap Them: “The Facts”]

To appreciate Trap Them‘s new album, Darker Handcraft, it helps to start with the Filth Rations EP from 2010.  Trap Them has consistently charged its hardcore side into a collision with metal that refuses to get dragged down in grime.

The four songs on Filth Rations give as sure a sign as ever that the band’s craft and tightness can always match its sheer impatience. The third track, “Dead Fathers Wading In The Bodygrounds,” keeps up a gimpy, stumbling trudge as the drums gradually thud harder, and vocalist Ryan McKenney bellows himself up to a pitch that invokes scalding tears and unforgivable injuries. There’s a sense that Trap Them is in a desperate frenzy to repeatedly overload their songs, lest a single McKenney roar or screech of feedback from the guitar go unused. Even the cramped handwriting of the lyrics in the EP’s liner notes looks more like a dozen rows of snaggled teeth than a sequence of words.

In retrospect, it’s as if the band that made Filth Rations was gearing up to achieve a height of directness and focus. Darker Handcraft is a plenty accurate introduction to Trap Them; it once again captures a sonic force that’s both furiously commanding and remains bitterly hurt no matter how feverishly it tries to expiate its demons. This time, though, that force resolutely says, “Look, one fucking thing at a time.”

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