Profound Lore is definitely the it label of this generation. The label has built an unbelievably solid roster of unique and challenging artists in the realm of extreme music. I’ve been following PFL for awhile now and it is my favorite label, so this was a great opportunity for me to send label head and sole member of Profound Lore Chris Bruni some questions. Check out this interview where we discuss Scion’s involvement in underground metal, band breakups, and the new Leviathan album.
Profound Lore started as a specialty label that put out vinyl releases for bands on other labels. PFL has since expanded and now licenses vinyl to other labels (with a few exceptions). Do you see yourself getting back into doing vinyl, especially since vinyl sales have been so strong in recent years?
I have been slowly getting back into doing vinyl. I guess you could say my return to doing vinyl would be the Dawnbringer “Nucleus” LP and the Agalloch “Marrow Of The Spirit” double LP is also on the brink of release. Up next is the vinyl edition of the Subrosa “No Help For The Mighty Ones”. So I’m doing what I can to fit whatever vinyl release I can nudge into the schedule as it’s always been a goal of mine to do a vinyl release of one of my own releases as it seems most likely now when I do vinyl, it will be of one of my releases respectively.
Read the rest of this profound interiew after the jump!
One of the reasons I’ve been hesitant to do vinyl is because it’s so fucking expensive to ship from Canada, pretty much the most expensive shipping/postage country in the world and just to cover my shipping costs and the cost of the vinyl itself, it can maybe come across as expensive. But I have to cover my costs. It’s that simple. So admittedly that’s been a deterrent in a way. But at the same time, I don’t mind licensing a vinyl release to another label that I already have some sort of personal relation with and can trust.
You’re based in Canada. Anyone who follows the label closely knows that Canada has notoriously high shipping costs. Since the label has grown, have you ever thought about setting up a U.S. office or European office, or perhaps working with a fellow label to distro PFL releases stateside?
I have on occasion, and even the thought of getting one of those U.S. merch companies that some labels go to handle stuff like mailorder came across my mind because it would take a load off and would have me not deal much with Canada Post. But at the same time, control is taken away from me so that’s something I’m not keen on happening. So in that sense, I’m evasive about stuff like this and I can get a bit too obsessive compulsive likewise. Not sure about getting someone in Europe to handle stuff like this (apart from my actual distributor in the UK/EU), I’ve been approached on several occasions about this, but I’ve never had that comfortable assuring feeling to delve into anything like this with anyone overseas. Lets just say I’ve been very evasive in doing so. And cautious. I dunno, I guess I should learn to trust people more.
One of the things I noticed when I started really getting into the label is how many Bay Area acts you have on your roster. At last count, you’ve released albums from 7 Bay Area acts. How long have you been following the Bay Area metal scene, and do you keep an ear out for acts specifically from that region?
I’ve been following a lot of these acts for a while and of course some of my favourite albums from the last decade have been from the Bay Area, albums such as “The Bastard”, “Dead As Dreams”, “Hollow Psalms”, “Traveler”, Leviathan’s “Verrater” demo collection, the Lurker Of Chalice album, and especially The Gault’s “Even As All Before Us” which I think is pretty much the best album of the last decade. It’s definitely a much more interesting movement than the Bay Area thrash one from the ‘80s. I don’t consciously keep an ear out for specific acts from that area but sometimes Aesop Dekker will give me a heads up about a local band I should check out.
You have a reputation for signing unconventional and challenging bands to your roster. Some of your acts have never played more than one or two shows or go for extended periods of time without releasing any new music. This year two of your bands, Salome and Ludicra, broke up. Caïna also released what is said to be their last album. How do you feel when these highly talented bands decide to call it quits?
It all depends I guess. I mean I knew this new Caina album would be the last one way in advance, the Ludicra breakup treaded the fine line of being in shock and kinda expecting it, especially after talking with Aesop about it. But the Ludicra breakup was definitely heartbreaking now that I think about it more and more. But lets just say good things are gonna come out of this breakup.
The hardest one for me to deal with was the Salome breakup of course. I don’t want to go into too many details but here was a band who just had a full on article on them in the NY Times, had a feature on NPR etc. had all this positive press surrounding them and then this all falls down. I mean it was a situation that could have worked itself out if there was maybe a bit more understanding involved and I actually had faith that it would eventually all work itself out because it’s not like this was a unique dysfunctional band situation different than all other dysfunctional moments many, many bands go through all the time. I mean last time I checked we are all mature adults right? But whatever, I guess I’m over it. Just a shame because there was so much promise and potential, and they were such a unique band in the doom metal genre in doing what they did and there was so much hard work and energy put into it that it all seemed to be for nothing, in the end anyway. But shit happens and sometimes it’s expected (and I’ve had this experience with more acts than just these mentioned).
What happens from a business standpoint when a band quits, do you see an increase in sales for those particular records? Do you start thinking about new acts to sign once it’s clear you one be getting another album from a certain artist?
Not really, usually when these bands break up, or more specifically break up just as a new album comes out, it’s definitely a blow to the album’s momentum because there are no shows or touring for the album, the band have no desire to do press, and everyone just looses interest quickly. So it doesn’t really help in sales, from my experience anyway. Just kills the momentum and flow of the album’s discourse. But I guess it depends on the band in question and the situation at hand since every situation is different with every band who goes through this.
In addition to bands dissolving, some of the other bands on PFL present challenges that would stress out most major labels. For example, one half of Cobalt is in the army, and literally puts his life at risk on a regular basis. How did you discover Cobalt? I imagine they’re one of the most interesting bands in the world to work with.
Well with Phil of Cobalt being in the army, this was a decision he made solely on fulfilling his need as a lion amongst a flock of sheep, one who needs to find his true calling while being in a state of combat. So of course I have no other choice but to support his decision.
But I first came across Cobalt in an interview Phil did for this zine I used to read called Canadian Assault, this was before the band’s “War Metal” debut came out and then eventually got “War Metal” when it came out. Several years later, while the label was still in its infant stages, I got word that they recorded a new album, that Jarboe made an appearance on it, and that it was unlike anything going on in extreme music. There was a moment where Cobalt was put on ice and I guess “Eater Of Birds” was recorded after that moment. But they had been shopping it around to labels and basically were blown off by every label they sent the album to and not even given the time of day from these labels. And this was something like a year after the album was recorded; so they had been sitting on it for a while. So when I got in touch with Erik Wunder, he sent me the album and I was literally blown away by it and ultimately floored by the sheer savagery and wrath the album emitted; just an utterly devastating and encompassing album that was moving yet at the same time destructive and violent. I mean I was familiar with “War Metal” and the preceding “Hammerfight” EP but “Eater Of Birds” was just on a totally different level all-together and a massive step up from “War Metal”. It was just such a unique album that sounded like nothing out there. So we finally struck a deal, the rest is history, and I consider “Eater Of Birds” one of the key turning points of the label. I was tough getting Cobalt back on the map and build awareness for them, and it took a lot of hard work and patience to do so. But it was ultimately worth it and I genuinely love the working relationship and comradeship I have with Erik Wunder and Phil McSorley. And a new Cobalt album is in the works, not sure when it’ll be released, I guess it depends on when Phil gets back from this final tour in Iraq this fall. But it will most likely lay down new foundations in extreme metal and will be another milestone in the genre. Just like “Eater Of Birds” did when it came out, and when “Gin” did when came out respectively.
Leviathan will be releasing their new album this year in November. It’s sort of a comeback album in that it’s his first in three years after supposedly putting the project to rest, also it’s being born out of a period of hardship and controversy. This new album and partnership with PFL will push Leviathan into the spotlight, and will no doubt be one of the most talked about albums of the year. How did you come to be releasing the new Leviathan, and can you provide any comments on the recording of the album?
I’ve known Wrest personally for a while since I’ve worked with Leviathan previously on a few vinyl releases when the label started out. But one day I got a message from Sanford Parker, out of the blue, that Wrest was eager to enter the studio with him and record a new Leviathan album and specifically wanted me to release it. It seemed quite sporadic but I guess he must of had something all mapped out in that mad-genius head of his and I think it’s awesome that the new Leviathan will be called “True Traitor True Whore” because it’s a title I can even relate with and there are several people out there who I would personally like to dedicate “True Traitor True Whore” to.
But overall, it’s probably the most unconventional Leviathan album yet, very creepy, dark, eerie, and quite disturbing and unnerving. It’s a very special album, while at the same time serving as a big “fuck you”, and it will be interesting to see how people react to it since it’s a different than anything Leviathan has done. Probably the closest comparison I can give is the “Verrater” demo collection, even though there are several tracks from that collection that were re-recorded for the new album.
You’ve participated in the Scion Musicless Music Conference, and many of the bands on your roster have participated in Scion Rock Fest. Dozens of people have already given their two cents about corporate sponsorship in underground metal, what do you make of it? Did you have any reservations or questions you had when Scion began getting involved with underground music?
I think what Scion are doing for underground music is quite commendable. I mean, you always hear stories of underground bands complaining that they don’t get treated right, end up in some sort of clusterfuck when they play whatever fest or event, or ultimately get screwed and ripped off when they play whatever fest. But here’s a corporation like Scion giving these underground bands (and fans) the royal treatment, taking care of them accordingly and treating them in a professional and respectable manner that these bands would never see in any other situation. So why shouldn’t these bands get to experience this treatment? I’ve attended one Scion Rock Fest and I must say it was one of the most organized and professionally run fests I’ve ever attended. Granted since Scion have a shitload of money at their disposal (even though the cost of putting on something like Scion Rock Fest is probably a fraction of what they spend in marketing and advertising when looking at their grand scheme) they can of course afford to run such events in a professional and orderly fashion, and it’s great for underground bands to play such events because it’s great exposure for them and such underground bands can only benefit from participating in such events. Exposure and an experience that they might not get elsewhere because really, these bands are not there to promote Scion or serve as a marketing tool for them, but are there to just play a killer fest and hang out with cool people.
But being part of the Scion Musicless Conference was a great and beneficial experience (especially getting the opportunity to meet and hang out with RZA), even though I was probably the most least-known person amongst its participants, it was interesting being in such an environment with other artists and industry folk.
In addition to Scion, National Public Radio has given special attention to underground metal and has been doing streams for metal albums in advance of their release. We now live in an age where an album stream from a misanthropic one man black metal band is entirely possible, even likely. What do you attribute this to? Why do you think these sorts of organizations are providing a platform for metal?
Well it’s all due to NPR’s metal guy Lars Gotrich, who has exceptional taste in underground metal and it’s good to see him actually bring metal bands to an organization such as NPR that have artistic merit and substance and giving these underground metal bands exposure though such an avenue. Bands like Disma for example, an actual real death metal band instead of whatever tech-death garbage is popular with the kids. And NPR listeners appreciate this.
But it just shows how this underground metal subculture, one where people are actually looking for music of an extreme nature that has artistic merit, substance, powerful aesthetics, and music that actually challenges them, doesn’t underestimate their intelligence and ultimately pushes the limits (and of course I’m not referring to the wanking feeble tech bands that try to jam a million notes into a song, I don’t consider that pushing the limit or challenging), has become this distinct growing movement of a niche of people who are essentially sick of all this big popular metal being forced down everyone’s throats on a daily basis. And avenues such as NPR are merely helping this cause.
Profound Lore has managed to stay ahead of the trends and some might say form new trends. Doom is extremely trendy right now, and is more popular now than it’s ever been. Do you follow trends in the music world, or do you try to avoid them altogether?
I’m aware of them but don’t consciously follow them in relation to what I do with the label. If I did then I think it would go against the purpose of what I do. I mean, even though doom is “trendy” right now, I would have still released bands like YOB, Asunder, Dark Castle, Loss, Atavist, Salome etc. regardless if doom was the in thing or not. And now it seems old school death metal is in demand more than ever, and even though it does really well for me, I’ll still be releasing bands such as Portal, Vasaeleth, Mitochondrion, Impetuous Ritual, Antediluvian, Disma etc. regardless. I mean, when I first released Portal’s “Seepia” album during the label’s inaugural stages, not a lot of people gave me the time of day with that release and it was a tough to move copies of it. I really pushed it as best as I could to make people realize that Portal were taking death metal to new levels unheard of. And it took several years to make this a realization.
I think a good part of the label’s growth has been in part to my attitude to not follow certain trends directly and just follow the instinct inherent in what I feel is right and suitable for the label, whether something is caught up in a current trend or not. That inherent instinct and intuition has been one of the most valuable assets in the development and growth of the label. Even though it’s hard to explain it’s just something that is natural and not forced, as opposed to going on some grand marketing and advertising scheme or whatever nonsense to build awareness for the label.
Like you said, old school death metal seems to be making a comeback as well. You’ve just released an album from Disma, are preparing to release an album from Antediluvian and have expressed interest in working with Grave Miasma. Are you wanting to inject the PFL roster with more death metal, or is this simply a result of what you’ve been listening to as of late?
It’s honestly the music I’ve felt closest to the most ever since releasing a band like Portal way back when the label was first starting off. In a way I admit that I’ve consciously wanted to inject as much death metal (what I consider true death metal anyway) into the label as I could and even though Profound Lore is not considered a death metal label per se, I feel that the death metal I release is essentially some of the best and most forward thinking death metal the underground has to offer today. Real death metal is supposed to be of an atmospherically dark, raw, and ultimately very sinister transcendent nature that’s supposed to conjure something otherworldly and alien, something of a grand levitation to cloak a new darkness upon this feeble mortal coil through the means of music. I think all these modern-day triggered tech death metal bands, along with rap influenced bro-death metal bands are garbage and a fucking joke with their social awareness society lyrics and clean sterile and fake productions and chugging breakdowns etc. These bands should do us all a favour and toss themselves off a cliff and step aside for the future of the genre through such bands as Portal, Grave Miasma, Cruciamentum, Weapon, Mitochondrion, Dead Congregation, Sonne Adam, Vasaeleth, Antediluvian, Disma, Maveth etc.
Blogs have become a huge part of the music world. Blogs provide plenty of hype, host song and album streams, interviews to provide fans with all the information they need or want. Is there anything you think the blogging world should do differently, or any services that they don’t provide that they should? What would you like to see from music blogs within the next year?
I think its important for a successful blog, first and foremost, to create an identity for itself and character which is dependent of course on the people behind said blogs. Having a unique angle and doing something slightly different than other blogs is always a good way to help a blog build its reputation. Doing unique and creative articles and whatnot by exploring such subcultures even further. And again, the attitudes of the people behind the blog are key element in giving it character and helping to network it amongst this culture. I think blogs will become even more interactive with fans and the people amongst this underground culture. It’s already happening but I think this interaction aspect can go a bit further.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions!
Thank you for the opportunity likewise.