Please present your label: when and where was it started, who is involved in its activities and what genres are promoted by it.
Hi Adrian and, first of, thank you very much for the support and the interest in our activities. Always a great pleasure to have a chat with supportive people that are as involved as you are in this scene!
Well, even if I’ve been playing in various (shitty local) bands, running distros, zines, webzines, a label, etc. since the late 80’s, Kaotoxin is quite young in itself as it somehow started back in August 2010, even if the first real release of our own was only on January 2012 (Gronibard’s «Satanic Tuninb Club Turbo!» comp. 12’’ LP). I was the webmaster for Bones Brigade Records and various other companies back then under the Kaotoxin name and when we heard Last Days Of Humanity were reforming, on August 2010, I decided to put a little fest together on December 2010 with them as headliners. LDOH cancelled their appearance upon line-up changes then, but we extended our partnership with Bones Brigade as a partner label, releasing the latest Total Fucking Destruction full-length, «Hater», Magruderngrind’s «Crusher», Lycanthrophy’s debut full-length and Brutal Truth’s «Evolution in one Take» LP with Nico (of Bones Brigade) during 2011. We then started to release our very own stuff in 2012 (Unsu, Insain, VxPxOxAxAxWxAxMxC, Dehuman, Eye Of Solitude, Savage Annihilation, Ad Patres & Antropofago) and 2013 (Nolentia, Years Of Tyrants, Sidious, Darkall Slaves, Miserable Failure, F Stands For Fuck You, The Lumberjack Feedback, Nephren-Ka) and… here we are!
At the contrary of what people were thinking at first, because of our collaboration with Bones Brigade, or because of the firsts artists we signed, we’re not focused on Grindcore or Death Metal only, but rather have a taste for all that’s dark in some way. Our roster is pretty varied, with Grindcore (Unsu, Infected Society, Nolentia…), Goregrind (VxPxOxAxAxWxAxMxC), Death Metal (Dehuman, Savage Annihilation, Ad Patres, Nephren-Ka), Technical Death Metal (Antropofago, Years Of Tyrants), Blackened Death Metal (Sidious), Doom (The Lumberjack Feedback), Funeral Doom (Eye Of Solitude) and we’re still developping the range of styles we cover with the addition of two more bands, not officially announced yet: a Progressive Extreme Metal band (think Frank Sinatra meets Sweden’s Shining!) and a Stoner / Doom one.
We do have a special line of digital-exclusive releases, a kind of «free crowdfunding» series, that’s called the Kaotoxin SideBlasts Series besides our regular releases, to which are signed a Dark Ambiant Black Metal band (Colosus) and a Grindcore one (C.O.A.G.). This is a project we’re trying to push as, in my humble opinion, this really could be the future of how labels could survive, evolve and develop. Hopefully, it’s gonna get some exposure and grow in the coming months.
And, besides all of that, we’re working on a forthcoming free printed magazine that’s called Toxic Kaos magazine. It’s French written and it’s gonna be free for everyone, distributed at gigs in all French speaking countries that want their copies.
The team is varying in shape with people helping from time to time, but basically, besides your humble guest, I can name Kila, who’s in charge of Toxic Kaos, Marie, Bertrand and Elsa, who help with stock, orders, etc. and Juliette and Guillaume, who are our «road team», helping us with selling stands at gigs, etc. and, of course, my significant other, Karine, who’s always around one way or the other.
Tell us a few words on each or the most important releases of your label, and which of them are still available for purchase.
Well, it’s a hard one as for me, of course, each and every release is the most important one. If it wasn’t the case, why would Kaotoxin release it? But, as far as sales go, our champions are France’s Ad Patres, which is a Death Metal band formed by Seth’s drummer, Alsvid, and who’s debut, «Scorn Aesthetics», has been and still is, our main «hit». The production’s awesome (by Mathieu of Gorod), the artwork kills (by Xenoyr of Ne Obliviscaris) and, more important, the band slays! Fast, brutal, catchy, impressive in all aspects.
Still sales-wise, we also have Sidious, which is a Blackened Death Metal band featuring two Eye Of Solitude members and whose debut EP, «Ascension to the Throne Ov Self» has been produced by Russ Russell (Dimmu Borgir). To put it short, it’s a both a dark and brutal mix between Dimmu Borgir’s orchestrations and Behemoth’s intensity, no less, I swear. You definitely must check it for yourselves!
We also have, obviously, our purveyors of fucking heavy and dark orchestral Funeral Doom, Eye Of Solitude, who are definitely much more than simply that as their new, and third, full-length, «Canto III», which is being released these days, goes way beyond the genre’s limitations, adding to the basic deal touches of Depressive Black Metal, blasts of rage and much more. Still a band you must have a listen to to really get the idea. That new one is really captivating. But, well, I could go on with all of our releases: I love them all, one way or another!»
What are the most important features you look for in a band that is or has the chance to be signed on your label?
Right now, Kaotoxin’s not signing anymore bands. We prefer focusing on helping our artists meeting their audience, developping and getting the recognition they deserve rather than having dozens of them signed to the label and just doing nothing for them in terms of support, advice or promotion.
But, to answer your question straight, I’d say that, at first, I used to sign bands that impressed me by their talent and originality. Think about VxPxOxAxAxWxAxMxC: these dudes are all over the place, playing each and every fucking country they can, all year long and, for sure, their childish, retarded, silly Goregrind wouldn’t be considered as being «talent» for most, but whatever most people outside the Goregrind scene can think, they are fucking impressive at what they do and they have their very own style, with unique «vocals» and blending Slamming Death Metal with groovy Goregrind. These are the kind of things I was looking for, at first (but don’t get me wrong, that was just an example as VxPxOxAxAxWxAxMxC are totally fitting into what I’ll develop below !).
But, you know, with the label developping, it’s no more a question of putting a few hundred of euros in the pressing costs for 500 CD copies that we’d simply trade everywhere. Nowadays, a release costs us a very minimum of six to ten times what it used to cost us a year ago because they’re being available in retail shops in many countries and we have to support our distributors in their territories, advertising everywhere we can, using PR companies, etc. So we can’t act as most underground labels anymore, giving the bands a mere amount of copies as royalties and forgetting about everything else. We try to be as pro as we can, even thought we’re not making any money at all (I’m still paying all of the label’s costs on my own money…), because we definitely think our artists are worth it – promotion, royalties, merch, etc… - and we want to build something with and for them, on the long term, so it drives us to become more and more picky with who we can actually sign.
Once we love some bands’ music, which is the basic point, and if it’s not in the very same style than one of our artists - why signing two bands playing the smae thing? I can’t undertand labels that have dozens of, say, Brutal Death bands and keep releasing the same full-length over and over all year long, that’s pointless both for the artists who are drown in a sea of clones and for the label which is just getting know within one subgenre, unable to get any artistic recognition in any other scene, whatever their experience, skills and talents - then we have to consider many different points: is the band able to understand a professional deal and all it involves and act accordingly, on its own, professionnaly, on the long term, without harnessing the label all-day long because what they signed wasn’t what they had in mind and they’re acting like amateurs? Is the band able to tour and play a lot and willing to do it? Is the band able to communicate, build a solid fan base, maintain good relations with its audience and the scene? Is the band trustworthy (we had our share of non-loyal artists…)? Many non-musical different aspects we must consider, now.
Put that way, that could seem to be somekind of pretentious shit, but we have our feet on the ground and really want to try our best to achieve the more possible things for our artists and thus need a win-win situation where the artists do everything they’re supposed to as a professional up-and-coming band if that’s what they want. If they want some other kind of deal, there are some other kind of labels. It’s basically all about sharing a vision, a will and giving each other the means to achieve that together on the long term.
How can a band get in touch with you? What should bands know before submitting their promos for your consideration?
Many bands are forgetting the most simple of things : the first contact, the way they’re writing and what they’re writing, the mean they use to get in touch, all of this is giving informations about who they are, what they do and what we can expect from them, even before we even get a listen to their stuff and that’s the most important (given we like what we hear, of course!).
Is the band getting in touch on Facebook, Twitter or whatever? Be sure they’re in a rush and not considering your label but any label they can as our email address is everywhere for who wants it, it just needs a little search or look at the infos on our Facebook page and you have it, and email is always the best place to get noticed rather than a social network which is all but professional and on which we’re spending the least possible time.
Is the band sending a streaming link? Well, did they think we should need to listen to their stuff even without Internet access? Are they sending mp3’s? Did they think our mailbox is most surely full and mp3’s not the best sounding file format around for their art?
Are they sending all the details about their zillions members coming and leaving or relevant infos? Did they think talking about what their plans and goals are? Did they think about what makes them different from all other bands and listen-worthy? Do they know the label, its artists, did they have a listen to them and know what we’re doing or trying to achieve or are we just label X or Y in a hundred they’re sending their stuff to?
Each little detail make sense even before listening to their stuff and tells us who they are, how they’ll be easy to work with or not at all, how they’ll communicate with their audience, with the medias, etc.
So, basically : a lossless download link, a well-written and short bio, what they want and try to achieve, why we should consider them and why they’re choosing to get in touch with us in particular are the basics.
Many bands are sending you an overload of stuff with no relevant info that would differenciate them from the ten thousands other bands around, don’t know your label and its artists and think we should consider them as the next big thing when they’re even not treating theirselves that way. It’s not a question of being pretentious, it’s a question of being down to Earth and showing your future partners (should it be the label, a publisher, a manager, a booker) that you’re stand out.
Some even send you 20 mails / PMs in order to have an answer when they sent their stuff one daya go. Good things need time to be done well and we’re always answering, should it be with a « no, thanks » mail, just leave us the time to answer, treat people like you’d like to be treated.
What's the most important thing in the relationship between you and your bands? What is your label offering to its bands?
A label-band relation is like getting married so, like any other marriage, it needs good sex (of course !), mutual trust, mutual confidence and sharing the same goals and vision. Imagine raising a child with totally different views towards how to raise him/her, how to educate him/her? This would be impossible. Imagine buying a house for the family altogether when you think the one you just got married with don’t know why they got married at first and what they expect from that and, worse, figure out after a while they’d prefer getting married with someone else because they don’t like your ways? You get the idea…
The label’s offering them what we believe is good sex: their releases promoted by professional PR agencies, available in records stores and online shops all over the planet, royalties, copies, full support and advice, a professional « image » and « value for money » with quality products for their fans, which is also valuable for a band’s image.
We’re not considering a given release as being only a release. We’re considering all of them as steps in a band’s carreer and try to work on the long-term with them, being constantly available for advice, promotional support, whatever they need or want and we can afford, given they understand our needs and possibility such as we try to understand theirs too. We’re trying to act like a label, a team, not like a simple way of releasing a CD, trading copies and not caring about the artist itself if you know what I mean.
Is there anything you planned with your label and has not yet been completed?
So many things, actually! Every day is all about catching up and getting things that are late being done and planning things that will be late too, ahah! But, seriously, we’re trying to develop our retail distribution network as we speak, getting a publishing deal for our artists and releasing all of the back catalogue on vinyl, but it all costs a lot of money and needs serious advertisement which we can only pay through sales but we need to advertise seriously to have the sales… So, you know, the monetary vicious circle. Hopefully, we’ll have a band that’s gonna have a good sales breakthrough one day and we can use the money to better ourselves for the benefit of the whole roster, fingers crossed. But, that said, we really value every kind of exposure : we’re not like «Wow, one of our artist is on the cover of Rolling Stones mag’!» (which never happened, BTW, ahah!), we’re more happy to see them on every fanzine around. We know our scene and we value the ones that are driven by the same passion than us, whatever their size: we’re small and cherish our peers.
How does the future look for your label? Any major projects you would like to share with us?
Times are really hard for labels, which is very sad as they’re the only real tool for bands to get the recognition they deserve whatever you can read all over the Interwebz. Even big names that went the self-releasing path like Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, Gojira etc. all finally signed or re-signed to a label. This is the real indication the Internet-dream of a band doing everything on his own is only a chimera. You need people to work for you, each one in hts very own field, manager, booker, publisher, label… like you need a drummer for the drums and a guitarist for the guitars. Doing everything yourself is possible, but it’s never gonna be as good as with people that know and can handle their share of work. Instead, I’d say a label has never been so important, nowadays.
So, well, to survive, we have to try to be forward-thinking and most of our nights are spent trying to figure out what the post-CD future will mean for us, even if for sure, the physical release will stay around for a while. We’d like to open a records store in our area, so people not only get their records, but can meet and we could center it around events, like albums release parties, listening parties, special meet and greet with bands in town, etc. We’re also working on our paper magazine, Toxic Kaos magazine, too.
After what I said about the «digital era» and the death of the physical format, this could sound silly to have such «old-fashioned stuff» as a record store or a paper magazine, but I really do believe it’s better selling 200 CDs and giving away, for free, a physical magazine to fewer people than having digital hits and being forgotten. There’s gonna be «die hard physical-stuff fans» around forever, or say for very long, and we’d rather build a real-life community than a Facebook-only following. Nevertheless, we try to achieve both, better for everybody, our artists included.
How can anyone get in touch with you? Please list your website, webstore and/or social media links.
Free advertising, uh? Really kind from you! Well, we’re working on our forthcoming website’s which is gonna be located at kaotoxin.com and, meanwhile, we have two main webstores: shop.kaotoxin.com for the physical goods (CDs, LPs, merch.) and listen.kaotoxin.com for the digital ones. We’re also on Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, YouTube, Google+ and whatever else.
Despite the fact you didn’t ask the ritual question «the last words are yours», I’d really like to thank you one more time for the cool intie and all the support, Adrian, it’s much appreciated. I hope you’ll keep supporting the label and its artists and you’ll be really into what we have in store for you in the near future!