I, Voidhanger was born in 2008 as an independent sublabel of Aeternitas Tenebrarum Musicae Fundamentum, a label that's still active. What caused this separation, and do you still collaborate with the original mother label?
Luciano Gaglio > I, Voidhanger Records is still an independent division of ATMF. Because of my everyday job, I don't have enough time to take care about every single aspect of a label, and therefore it's my friends at ATMF that take care of online promotion and distribution through their channels. This way I can dedicate myself to the artistic choices only, leaving the rest to their professional expertise. Their help is really precious. I consider ATMF one of the most interesting black metal labels out there, they discovered many talented bands like Aquilus, Urna, Locus Mortis, Arcana Coelestia, Svarti Loghin, Janvs, Melancholia Estatica, Lantlos, and Lustre. ATMF also introduced me to their graphic designer Francesco Gemelli (www.francescogemelli.it), with whom I've collaborated since day one. He's the author of all my releases' layout, and the reason why they look so good.
What was the original goal and purpose for your label, and what kind of guidelines did you originally set regarding what style of material you want to release?
Luciano Gaglio > I have been a professional rock/metal writer for many years (currently I collaborate with Rock Hard Italy), but suddenly that wasn't enough anymore to satiate my appetite for music. I suppose I needed to experience how it feels to be on the other side. I'm trying to give the label an oblique slant, according to my personal character and way of thinking. Today the guidelines are the same ones they were 5 years ago: I'm interested in black metal, death metal, avant-garde, doom, heavy rock and psychedelia, as long as they are the result of a dark and original artistic vision. We could say that darkness and a marked character are the most important rules.
Your releases range from traditional death- and black metal to the spheres of doom and avantgarde, so, in some sense, you have a very large scope of genres that you operate with. Noting your vast preferences, how do you decide which album suits the label, and which does not? Is it a decision based on a certain gut feeling, or..?
Luciano Gaglio > Gut feeling, most of the time. I like musical genres and sub-genres, the identity of sound and the traditions they carry with them are very important to me - it's the boaundaries that I don't like. I listen to different kinds of music, each one having something to offer depending on my needs and the feelings of the moment. I don't want to limit my listenings, therefore I won't put any kind of limit to my label... although it is unlikely that I will ever operate outside the metal field, which is wide enough to keep me busy and satisfied.
Further, are your band signings more often based on a band contacting you, or rather you contacting them? Are a lot of promos sent your way?
Luciano Gaglio > I receive many requests from bands, 3 or 4 each week, but usually it's me that goes in search of new talents. It's part of the pleasure of running a label! I apologize to all the bands which wrote to me and didn't get an answer: I listen to everything, but don't have enough time to always write down an articulated comment. I prefer not to answer instead of writing something lapidary like 'no, thanks.'
I have friends that suggest me new bands to sign, and that's how I got in touch with INNER SANCTVM and CHOWDER. My dear friend Len Van Der Wolf - the guy who conceived the Yogsothery series - is my open eye on the underground scene, and a sage advisor.
If a band wishes to get a contract with you, what should they possess and do to in hopes of making that happen?
Luciano Gaglio > Nothing in particular, though I admit I am very attracted by concept albums, cool band names and rich artworks.
Aside of pressing and publishing the physical works, what kind of responsibilities and rights do you have with the releases' creation process? Do you help the bands with their releases' visual side or perhaps take part in the recording costs?
Luciano Gaglio > I try not to interfere with their creative process, but I always give 'em my opinion on songs and sounds, because sometimes it's important to hear somebody who's not directly involved in the songwriting /recording process. Usually I don't take part in the recording costs, as my label is not big enough to do that, but I pay the artwork costs because that's a very important element to me, and I want to be sure to have great art on all my releases.
Quite a few of your releases, such as the album from Ysengrin and the compilation-CD from Serpent Ascending, have prominent occult themes. Does your label or the individuals behind it have satanic or occult views, or is it just something you find interesting and worth your support otherwise?
Luciano Gaglio > I'm not an expert, and I don't study occultism, but I kind of sympathize with certain views. Being an introspective guy, I feel attracted by occult and esoteric themes because I perceive them as vehicles with which to explore my inner-self. For example, I'm fascinated by Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot, they are the most complete representation of mankind's culture, dealing with alchemy, philosophy, kabbalah, hermeticism, mythology, etc.
Right now I'm working on a project related to Crowley's Tarot. The idea is to have a musical/lyrical representation of the 22 major arcana and the archetypes behind them. Some great bands are taking care of that difficult task, but it's too early for an official announcement. I can only add that the album will be released as a box-set including a real deck of cards drawn by the amazing Croatian artist Marko Marov/Vatra I Sumpor.
Continuing from above, are there some ideologic or religious views that you won't accept from a band that's asking you to publish their record?
Luciano Gaglio > Yes, I don't accept racism - but I do accept and support racism against stupidity and superficial people.
I'm very curious about the symbolism behind your label's name and its logo, would you care to open them up a bit for us?
Luciano Gaglio > Well, the label's name comes from a DARKTHRONE song that I like, from one of their most hated albums, 'Plaguewielder'. It was the first song I listened to after a pause I took from music, because of a tragic family loss. The pause from music was so long that my ears almost got their virginity back, and when I played that song it sounded louder and lyrically more desperate than ever. In a certain way, that song marked my rebirth and it was a natural choice when I had to find a name for the label. Also, I like the emphasis on the word "I" and the assertiveness that implies. As you've probably noticed, most of the bands in my roster are one-man projects. That's because most of all I appreciate the struggle of the single artist to create art obeying only to the own impulse and vision. In other words, the triumph of individuality over the flock behaviour. As for the IVR logo, the original one was a detail from an Ernst Fuchs' drawing, which you can see on my first release, URNA's 'Iter Ad Lucem' vinyl. But it didn't look interesting and eye-catching enough, and with my second release I switched to the current one, which is a Gustave Doré's illustration for the Divine Comedy. I love its mix of beauty and horror.
Aside of occultism, I've noticed you're intriqued by the Cthulhu-mythos, and you've published at least one CD devoted to it. Would you like to tell us more about this interest of yours?
Luciano Gaglio > Yes, Lovecraft is one of my passions, I've always been fascinated by the cosmic proportions of his horrific visions. It's the kind of horror that I like the most: not splatter, and based on inner atavistic fears. Cthulhu, Azathoth and Yog-Sothoth are not monsters, they are symbols of the ultimate existential nihilism: powerful like gods, but with no purpose. They exist not only in ifferent dimensions, but in different ways that are a negation of how we perceive life and reality. Apart from the Yogsothery project, both CHOWDER and THE WAKEDEAD GATHERING are strongly influenced by Lovecraft.
At the moment Len Van Der Wolf and I are working on the next 'gate' of YOGSOTHERY, and this time it'll be a death metal-oriented album. It's too early to reveal all the details, but I can anticipate that both AEVANGELIST and AFTER DEATH will contribute an exclusive track. AEVANGELIST have already recorded their prayer to the Ancient Ones, a 14-min. monumental piece titled 'Abstract Catharsis'. As you know, AFTER DEATH is none other than Mike Browning who invented death metal with Morbid Angel and Nocturnus. AFTER DEATH's invocation consists of a 30+ min. track mixing ritual ambient and death metal.
You've published some albums on vinyl, although your works are more often presented on CD. Is there any specific reason for preferring the CD-format, and will this line be kept in the future as well? Are the format-issues decided case by case?
Luciano Gaglio > The reason why I release more CDs than vinyls has to do with the fact I don't have enough room at my home to store vinyls. Considering that the sales are generally slow, I don't want my family to live in an apartment full of boxes. That's why I licensed the rights for the SERPENT ASCENDING, AEVANGELIST and NAR MATTARU vinyls to Blood Harvest Records. CDs are easier to sell and trade, and I like the format very much (I grew up with CDs more than vinyls). But I love vinyls too, and fortunately I've found a couple of factories which offer micro-pressings of 100-200 vinyls at interesting prices. Therefore I've released the vinyl edition of YSENGRIN's "To Endotaton", strictly limited to 100 copies, and the new AEVANGELIST 7" EP, available in 250 copies and never to be repressed. So, I'd say that vinyls are definitely back at I, Voidhanger Records. You'll see more of them in the future.
Your manifesto states the following: "Apart from our regular CD/LP emissions, we will also work on special thematic releases centered on the strong, osmotic relationship between metal music, Art and Literature." Have any such releases been published yet, or are they still in the planning stages? Could you tell us more about your plans in this field?
Luciano Gaglio > Well, YOGSOTHERY can be considered the first of those thematic releases, not only because of the evident link with Lovecraft's horror Literature, but also because it came with a booklet full of Philippe Druillet's illustrations. A nice blend of art and music, in my opinion. Druillet is my fave comic book artist, and one of the firsts to catch the essence of Lovecraft's writings through his visionary style. The forthcoming "Converge, Rivers Of Hell" album - featuring all of Dis Pater's projects: MIDNIGHT ODYSSEY, TEMPESTUOUS FALL and THE CREVICES BELOW - is another thematic release. Dis Pater has been inspired by the Latin and Greek Literature he has read, and many of his songs come with quotations from Aeschylus, Euripides, and other classic authors. For this release we chose the art of Erik Heyninck, an amazing Belgian painter who had already covered the rivers' concept in his own visionary and unique way.
Future plans? Yes, I am currently working on a concept album inspired by the myth of Faust, and on a tribute album to William Blake.
What lies in the future of I, Voidhanger? Are there some new or currently planned releases that you'd like to advertise or discuss here? Personally, I'm looking forward to the 7"-EP from AEvangelist.
Luciano Gaglio > The 'Nightmare Flesh Offering' 7" EP will mark the end of AEVANGELIST's first phase. The second phase will be characterized by a new logo and by an amazing occult concept which was there since day one, but that they've been able to develop in full only recently. Apart from this 7" and the already mentioned YSENGRIN vinyl, I'm going to put out a fantastic split CD between SPECTRAL LORE and MARE COGNITUM. Both bands have delivered an unreleased song of epic proportions (26-28 minutes in length!), plus a collaborative ambient track to close their journey into the cosmic depths in search of the higher truth.
There are many planned releases for the second half of 2013 and for 2014:
- the new masterpiece from WOEBEGONE OBSCURED, 'Marrow Of Dreams', a double-album of funeral death/doom metal of the highest caliber;
- the new SPECTRAL LORE album, titled 'III', a work of transcendental black metal beauty which will hopefully impose this amazing band to a wider audience;
- AUS DER TRANSZENDENZ / LUSTRE split 7" (this being a joint venture with ATMF);
- the first full length album from MOSAIC, which is the experimental black metal vision of Inkantator Koura from Alchemyst;
- a 2-CD anthology with all the demo material from BLIZARO, simply the best horror doom band out there;
- a full length from JOHN GALLOW, a side-project of John Gallo (Blizaro, Orodruin, Crucifist) inspired by Paul Chain and the Italian way of doom in general;
- the first full-length offering from HANG HIM, a prog/death/grind metal project by guitarist-extraordinaire Calin Raduta (Cap De Craniu);
- the debut album from PHANTOM, a new Swedish band playing an old kind of gothic black metal;
- a new album from LORN, which sounds like Blut Aus Nord tripping on a bad acid;
- new albums from THE WAKEDEAD GATHERING, NAR MATTARU, INNER SANCTVM, and SERPENT ASCENDING...
... and much, much more.
In general, what kind of reception have your releases been met with? Are you still satisfied with each of them yourself?
Luciano Gaglio > In terms of sales, the releases of MIDNIGHT ODYSSEY and AEVANGELIST are the most successful, but all of my records got great reviews and enthusiastic comments. I'm satisfied with all of them, but I'm also a bit sad when I see that people ignore my most audacious and extreme releases. People seem to buy what's hype, ignoring what sounds too weird or time-demanding. One thinks that the underground metal scene would be different, but in the end it's the same: people buy what they tell them to buy, they follow trends and are not interested in making new discoveries or widening their horizons.
That being said, there are still a bunch of listeners out there without the fear to dare, and that's the audience of I, Voidhanger Records.
Let me say that I'm very proud of the artists in my roster. Dis Pater of MIDNIGHT ODYSSEY is undoubtably one of the greatest poets and dark dreamers of our time. Matron Thorn of AEVANGELIST is a genius with a huge visionary talent that is blossoming right now. Ayloss of SPECTRAL LORE is the incarnation of the Greek god of music (if he ever existed), always in search of new musical heights to climb. Inkantator Koura of MOSAIC is another dreamer, he has great ideas and projects fermenting in his soul, and the sensibility to fulfill them. Guido Saint Roch of YSENGRIN is a true son of the 80s, he has the capacity for freshly recreating the atmospheres of the most cryptic metal from that era, avoiding the revival feel and adding his own unmistakable touch. Jarno Nurmi of SERPENT ASCENDING is one of the few persons I know who studies and practices his occult views, and his death metal is an extension of his esoteric research. Calin Raduta of HANG HIM is a fantastic guitarist and inventive songwriter, he could have been much more famous if he was born in Germany or USA, instead of Romania. Josh Hart of CHOWDER is a true veteran of Maryland's doom, he made the history of the genre and now he's exploring its limits through a breathtaking progressive approach. D. Woe of WOEBEGONE OBSCURED is that kind of artist able to transform all the anguish and bitterness in life into an obscure musical canvas... a genuine expression of pain. Francisco Bravo of NAR MATTARU, Francisco Martin of INNER SANCTVM and Andrew Lampe of THE WAKEDEAD GATHERING are humble persons and great musicians, totally absorbed by their metal art, devoted to the old school but not imprisoned by its rules. Cal Scott of UMBAH simply plays the metal of the future, today...
... and then there's an artist whose music has lately become a true obsession for me: John Gallo of BLIZARO. In his music I find a purity of inspiration and intention that is almost moving. I agree with those - like John Brenner of doomsters Revelation - who think he's a genius.
Are you active in any bands, or do you have any in your past?
Luciano Gaglio > No, I've never been in a band, and I don't play any instrument. In my next life I'd like to be a drummer, I think.
Everyone knows what kind of problems illegal downloads cause for labels, even in the underground. Do you have any official digital distribution, or has there been any interest for it from the crowd? Do you actively fight against your releases spreading online, or is it more of a "force of nature" that simply needs to be acknowledged and accepted as a part of the business? Have you had problems with the releases being available as files online before their release date due to someone publishing their promo-copies or such?
Luciano Gaglio > I refuse to have an official digital distribution. I don't understand why I should have one, since I'm spending a lot of money on artwork and big booklets. I will never get tired to say that for me a record - being it a vinyl or a CD or a tape - is a sacred object. For me it doesn't start and finish with the music, but it must be percieved as a whole experience, including cover artwork, booklet layout, band photos, liner notes, credits. I wonder how people can be satisfied with MP3s instead of a physical release. I don't fight against blogspots, I tolerate them, hoping that people will buy the music they like, and even the music that sounds interesting and that could grow on them.
I buy something like 20 CDs and vinyls each month, sometimes even more. I'm very proud of my collection.
Just out of curiosity, are there some great bands or releases you have ran into lately that you'd like to mention here? Do you have a certain favourite genre that you'd follow and support more avidly than others?
Luciano Gaglio > Well, last year I fell in love with the debut albums from Occultation, Alchemyst, Serpent Noir, Elysian Blaze, Faustcoven and Head Of The Demon, while more recently I've enjoyed the new works from Abysmal Grief, Jex Thoth, Acherontas, Owl and Black Oath, the debut album from Symptom, and the splits Nightbringer/Dodsengel and Andramelech/Serpent Noir. The new The Devil's Blood work is very interesting too, though it sounds like a work-in-progress, as if the band was changing skin while writing it.
Outside of the metal field, I fell in love with Goatcraft's debut 'All For Naught' (made of piano voices which sound heavier than your death or black metal!), and with the last chapter in John Zorn's 'Book Of Angels' series, featuring Pat Metheny on guitar. For those who missed it the first time, I also recommend Bobby Beausoleil's 'The Lucifer Rising Suite' 4-LP box re-released by Ajna, as well as the long awaited reissue of 'Warrior On The Edge Of Time' by Hawkwind. A timeless classic.
The interview is nearing its end. Is there something you'd like to add, ask or discuss further?
Luciano Gaglio > No, they were interesting questions, it was a pleasure for me to answer them. I just wanna say thanks for the opportunity and wish all the best to your nice Webzine.
Thank you for your time!