Would you like to tell us a bit how you came to start a label, and especially a label that's focused on the more unknown side of music? Was it more to serve your own needs, or for your will to help out the bands that deserve to be heard?
D > How Ziekte Records started is actually a bit of a funny story. It started out as Ziekte-NL, which was a small metal community for Dutch metalheads. Then next to the community it became a site to display all the bad news in The Netherlands. Within the small community on it were two guys who both had a one man project. One was called Universal Monster (no longer exists) and the other was Manica (still active & still on Ziekte). They were both looking for a label to release their demo, and I simply thought I'd give it a go. So it was more to help out bands that deserved to be heard.
How did you manage to find the other people involved with your label? Are you currently searching for more working force?
D > The other people involved with my label were simply in my life already and showed interest in my idea of starting a label. Maaike, the co-owner, is my girlfriend and has supported me since the beginning, even in busy times when I had little time for her. Vinnie, the photographer, is my best friend and has been for almost a decade. Jonathan is a good friend who was involved with a small graphics design company I ran years ago and was excited about me starting a label and doing work for it.
I'm currently not in need of any more working force, but of course I'll be sure to let the world know when I do.
Many label-owners have some musical projects of their own. Are you currently active in any bands, or have you been before?
D > I have my own small weird project called Dead-Eye Gaze, which I barely have any time for unfortunately. Other than Dead-Eye Gaze I've had some other one man projects but nothing was ever released.
Your main label Ziekte Records releases many kinds of music varying from rock to ambient, black metal, noise, progressive and gothic metal. What are the general guidelines of your label's signings? What are the things a band must possess or show in order for it to be released on your label? And, of course, how do you find the bands whose music you release?
D > There is only one strict general guideline really; I have to like the music. And I'm a fan of many styles as you'll see by the bands on the label. A band has to have "it", I'm not sure how to explain it. Basically if I think the band has potential and I have the budget, they can get on board for a release. As for how I find the bands, well, as soon as you have the word 'Records' or 'Label' in your name here on myspace, you'll never have to search for bands again haha!
Do you see your label as an experimental-oriented one, or do you just release good music as you find it? What is it that defines Ziekte Records?
D > I release good music as I find it really. I suppose what defines Ziekte Records is having bands in fairly familiar genres, but with a twist. They all have something that makes them stand out from the crowd.
How do you manage advertising and promotion of your label and it's releases? I would guess that promoting such a wide variety of music takes a lot of time. Does your label have a target audience of some kind, or do you aim the releases or the promotion to a certain group?
D > Your guess is absolutely correct. Labels focusing on one or two genres have a much more specific audience than we do. We mainly advertise and promote through zines and websites, as they usually have one or two specific genres they focus on, so we send our releases that match their focus to them. Since there are sites and zines for all genres, all releases are slowly covered.
Have you received any criticism for the amount of variance you have between your releases?
D > So far most reactions to the variety have been surprised but good. I haven't received any real complaints about how a certain genre shouldn't be together with another certain genre on the same label or anything like that. I think people like the variety. Many people listen to multiple genres, and they can find those genres with us.
I'm not sure if this is an appropriate question to ask, but: how much do your records sell, on an average?
D > Well, I won't name any numbers, but the sales are fairly low, which is the case with a lot of labels in these times. Even the ones shouting they sell a lot, that's just another way of attracting attention haha.
You also had (more about the past tense later on) a fully Black Metal-oriented label Victory By Fire Records. Why did you decide to make a whole new label for the Black Metal -releases, even though the main label did release a few Black Metal albums as well?
D > I'm personally a great fan of raw black metal, and I thought raw black metal bands wouldn't really fit in well with the rest of the Ziekte bands, which usually have much higher production quality. When Ziekte did some black metal releases the thought of starting another label had not even crossed my mind. I think all future black metal releases that I'm interested in won't be done on Ziekte anymore though.
You recently announced that your sub-label Victory By Fire Records will merge with another dutch label Svartgalgh. Will Ziekte Records also eventually become one with Svartgalgh, too, or how you will handle operating these two labels in the future?
D > By now Victory By Fire Records and Svartgalgh Records have indeed merged, and remained under the Svartgalgh name. Ziekte will never merge with Svartgalgh, I plan to run them as two separate labels. Ziekte to serve the main group of metalheads of the world and Svartgalgh to serve the underground part of the metalworld.
What were the things that originally led to you taking charge of Svartgalgh as well?
D > I have been friends with Patrick (the previous owner) for quite some time now, we also did some co-releases between Victory By Fire Records and Svartgalgh Records in the past. After talking and working together for about a year, he mentioned he was thinking about quitting Svartgalgh. I told him I would be honoured to keep the Svartgalgh name alive if he would let me. Not too long after that my birthday came up (4th of August). I was speaking to Patrick on MSN and he said 'I guess I have a nice birthday gift for you'. Then my jaw dropped as I read Svartgalgh Records was now under my control.
What kind of changes will this merging bring to the labels' actions and operating ways? How will you choose the bands to release in the future, do you follow the same directions as the previous owner of Svartgalgh did? Or, one could say, will Svartgalgh still be Svartgalgh?
D > Victory By Fire Records was already quite similar to Svartgalgh Records, basically because Patrick and I think and work alike in many ways. People have nothing to worry about, Svartgalgh will still be Svartgalgh. The only thing that has changed is the look of the website and the fact that you can now order online with paypal instead of just through email contact & banktransfer (which is still an accepted way of ordering by the way).
You mentioned that you have a rather unusual way of sharing the sales profits with the bands, would you like to tell us a bit about it?
D > Yes it's unusual, though in my opinion it shouldn't be. When I started Ziekte I was looking up how much bands actually get paid upon sales, and saw percentages like 7-9%. This is an absolute rip-off to me. Therefore, upon release, our bands receive 20 copies of the release and whenever a sale is made bands get 70% of profit from cd sales and 80% of profit from digital sales.
As these things vary a lot between the many labels, I must ask that do the bands receive the profits as money, or (partly) as records?
D > Haha I seem to have answered this in the previous question :)
So, I somehow guess that you don't make a living out of your labels. How have you managed to find the time and resources to balance between the finances and earthly necessities, and the label-actions?
D > You've guessed correctly again, few people actually do. Finding time for it all is difficult, that's why it sometimes takes a few days before I can answer my emails. Almost all my free time goes to my labels and fortunately I have found a girlfriend who can actually stand that haha. I've also got a smartphone so I can answer emails where ever I am. And I've cut down my sleep to about 5-6 hours a night.
You've been cooperating with many labels throughout your existence. Are there some labels that you would like to point out to our readers?
D > I'd love to mention them all but I don't want to turn your interview into some massive advert haha. So I'll just mention one, of which I am the co-owner; Triumphant Art Records run by my good friend Chris. It focuses on black and death metal and currently has 1 available release with more coming up.
Since we're talking about underground-releases here: what's your view on bootlegs, and online music piracy?
D > It's a difficult subject for all label owners I suppose. It's killing the industry, but at the same time I'm sure it's making it grow. It's like cutting down the rainforest and planting new trees. We lose income on cd sales and digital sales, but at the same time I'm sure more people decide to go to concerts and buy merchandise. So I see upsides and downsides, making proper judgement kind of difficult.
What should we expect from your labels in the near future?
D > From Ziekte; all kinds of music that's in familiar genres but stands out from the crowd.
From Svartgalgh; many more great (raw) black metal releases, amazing ambient projects and some really strange experimental stuff.
You have the final words. Say what you please.
D > Keep an eye on www.ziekte-nl.nl, it's the main portal to Ziekte Records and Svartgalgh Records and will be updated frequently. And always keep supporting sites like Damned By Light, they keep the underground alive. And thank you for the interview of course! :)