Even with a slight uptick in sales for 2011, it’s no secret that the record industry has seen better days. But despite the gloom and doom, publicist Josh Eldridge earlier this week announced the formation of a new metal label, Gravedancer Records. With support from his day job as a publicist at The MuseBox, Eldridge has launched the label, which will be distributed by EMI (the label group behind March Is Metal Month). With releases from Conan, Byzantine and Chrome Waves coming out this year, the label will also become an American partner for Europe’s Roadburn and Burning World Records. Eldridge spoke to Metal Insider about the new label, how his time at Century Media prepared him for launching a label, and what he’ll be looking for in artists.
So how did the label come about?
I finished up at Century Media last year and joined up with the MuseBox doing marketing and PR. As the head of marketing, doing A&R on what kind of clients we bring in, now was the time to do it. So with their help and assistance on the label service side of things and EMI Distribution, we decided to launch Gravedancer. It’s a way for me to work with the metal that I really love, which is why we’re in this business in the first place. I’d worked with Sid McCain [from EMI] for a long time going back to the Century days, and she was excited. I signed the first project a few weeks ago, Chrome Waves from Chicago. which is Stavros from Atlas Moth, Bob from The Gates of Slumber and Apostle of Solitude and Jeff from Nachtmystium and Wolvhammer. It’s an amazing fucking record. It’s very doomy and black metally like you would expect from those guys. The next thing we picked up is Byzantine, who used to be on Prosthetic. Chris Adler from Lamb of God discovered them and they signed to Prosthetic just as Lamb of God was jumping to Epic. They’re groovy but also technical. They get a lot of comparisons to Lamb of God and Meshuggah. They’d taken a hiatus, but now they’re back. We’re going to be recording in May and looking at an October release, tentatively. The Chrome Waves record will be a July 3rd release.We’re going to have CDs, digital and a very limited run of crazy vinyl packages that Jeff and Stavros are designing.
The third piece of the puzzle I’ve been working on is a partnership with Roadburn. That’s one of the most exciting things I have ever worked on. The Roadburn festival has become so iconic, and I’m a huge fan. I got excited about this and I saw a cool opportunity and we partnered up. So we’ll be putting stuff out from Roadburn/Burning World Records. The partnership can grow from there. We’re starting with the Conan record which is an amazing crusty, UK, doom metal band. We just premiered a track on Pitchfork and it’s got a lot of great attention. So that’s really my forte, the really technical stuff or the heavy, balls-out doomy, black metal kind of stuff. That’s what I’m trying to bring out with Gravedancer and I think we have three great records that fit that very well.
When is the Conan record coming out?
We’re finalizing everything right now as far as layout, but we’re eyeing a July 31st release date.
So Gravedancer launches in July?
Yeah, July will be the first releases. Then we’ve got the October release and we’ll go from there. I’ve been taking a lot of meetings with friends, and people have been receptive so I think we’ll have a lot of killer releases this year.
Do you have any goal as to how many records you want to release in a year?
Running a label and going through the whole production process is a mountain of things to do, so I think this year we’ll keep it pretty slow. We have three slated already; you might see us get up to four or five this year. But once we find our groove, I would bet doing anywhere from five to ten records next year and the hope is to keep growing it. I know a lot people don’t say that right now but I’m very excited about this label and I’m working with a lot of quality artists so I think we can do it.
Are you the only employee right now?
Well, I have the whole MuseBox team supporting me, so we’ve got an extra hand in the kitchen on all aspects. We’ve got people working sync licensing and other publicists that can help out in certain areas, like lifestyle or any other area a band needs extra push into. So we have a decent team but I’m going to be everything publicly for Gravedancer, handling the signings and the creative.
Talk to me a little bit about the Burning World and Roadburn labels. What is their ratio of live albums from the festival to the studio stuff?
They have a fucking monstrous company. Obviously they’re best known from the festival over here because they’ve never had the two labels distributed over here. The way it works is there’s Burning World Records, which releases the studio albums and has put out stuff from Gnaw Their Tongues and Lustmord, and they’ve done vinyl for every stoner doom band along the way throughout Europe. Then the Roadburn side is the stuff they record from the festival that they do the live albums from. They record everything in extremely high quality from the festivals and they maintain all the rights to it. They give them limited run vinyl releases, cool packaging, really amazing stuff. They’ve done a crazy Nachtmystium one, they’ve done Neurosis, Yob, and are working in a Voivod one coming up. They have a massive catalog of amazing live performances. For the immediate future we’re going to be focusing on studio stuff and working the live aspect into it eventually. Certain bands have the rights to release their stuff in North America already. Neurosis released their Live at Road Burn album through Neurot.
Right and Earthless put out theirs on Tee Pee…
Right, but moving forward we feel like we’ll be able to maintain a lot of those rights and hopefully put those records out over here as well. But we’ll definitely be bringing a lot of cool stuff they’re discovering in Europe like the Conan project, which I am incredibly excited about. I am very proud of that record and I think it’s going to be on a lot of peoples’ year-end lists over here. And that’s the kind of stuff that I’m most excited about with this partnership.
How has your career so far prepared you for running a label?
I’m just a huge fan, so I’m ecstatic that it’s gotten to this point. I started out at Century Media as the retail promotions guy and worked my way up to being a tour PR person. From there I branched out to be full-on PR, went to management, came back to Century and ran the PR department. So essentially, I’ve been working in management, marketing and PR for a few years. I feel like that aspect of things has given me a good taste of all that the industry has to offer. I’ve done a lot in most fields in the music industry so I feel like I’m prepared to go out and do my own thing. When you get to see a company like Century, who is at the pinnacle of the metal community, you see the way things are done right, you see what they take risks on and succeed with, you see their failures, you see everything. It gives you a good eye for what you need to do if you’re going to do something on your own. I’d say one of the most important things I learned from them is stay true to the metal scene, that’s something they’re really big on. They might sign a lot of stuff that in different subgenres of the metal world but they’ve always stayed true to metal. And I respect them for that and I feel like that’s the key to success. They’ve done it for twenty five years now so if I’m able to go out and do it, it’s all because of them.
Do you have any advice for someone who might be considering starting a label?
Yeah before you do it on your own go out and work with some other people who are already doing it. Like I was saying about Century, you learn so much from watching other successful people do it. There are so many things that you think you know about the music business because its a very transparent business. You hear bands talk and labels talk and you feel like you’re seeing everything. What you don’t realize is there’s a whole other world on the other side of the business that if you don’t know, your label is going to go out of business after the first record. Team up with people whom you admire, find a label where you love everything they put out and try to intern with them, get your foot in the door somewhere. Learn the business and then and then try to start your own thing.
What about what you’re signing? If you hear a band that might not be your type of music, but know that it could explode, would you sign it?
Yeah, a lot of labels do that. The bigger metal labels, the Centurys and Roadrunners, you have to be on the lookout for what’s happening next. I have very diverse tastes. I’ll tell you flat out I like some of the Asking Alexandria stuff I’ve heard and I like Suicide Silence, but everyone that knows me knows I love black metal and doom and sludge. Those are my favorites personally, but I’m not afraid to step outside of the box for a signing I believe in, regardless of genre. I’m looking for what I like personally, because that’s key to developing something for everyone else to enjoy. You have to like it yourself or it’s not going to go anywhere. But i do understand that it’s a business, and there could be things that come around in genres that have to grow on you. I’m not opposed to anything, but right now i’m going to keep it to what I like personally.