Season of Mist Records, based in the South of France, was started by a metal fanzine editor named Michael Berberian in the mid-1990s. The label’s focus was the budding progressive Black Metal scene. The label solidified its place in the worldwide metal scene with its signing of the band Mayhem, the label’s 27th release. 14 yrs later, the label has evolved in a forward thinking, well-rounded vehicle for multiple genres of of extreme metal, goth and hard rock. Upcoming releases in 2009 include new records from Atheist, Mayhem, Brutal Truth, Destroyer 666 and the The Sign of the Southern Cross.
Office manager Sean “Pellet” Pelletier started in the biz booking shows and writing a pro-hemp/pro-aggressive fanzine & radio show (WRBC) called “Ganjavitis”. In 1994, after being named “High Times Freedom Fighter of the Month” pictured wearing a Nuclear Blast America shirt, he got an offer to intern at Relapse Records/Nuclear Blast America. He wound up getting hired, and stayed at Relapse for 10 years, helping sign bands such as Soilent Green, Benumb, Mastodon, and Dillinger Escape Plan. He quit the label in 2004 to join forces with his twin brother, Chris, running the US office of Season of Mist Records. He also wrote a column entitled “Pellevision” for 10 yrs in Japan’s music rag, Eat Magazine. In addition to being the current office manager at Season of Mist, he has a hobby label called Vessel Records and small artist management business, overseeing Bobby Liebling and Pentagram. He’s also currently producing a documentary film with 914 Pictures (Rock School) about Bobby’s life entitled “Last Rites, The Rise & Fall of Bobby Liebling.”
How and why did Season of Mist, a French label, come to establish an American office?
Hell bent on not being run as a side label by another US label, like many foreign labels are at this point, Michael Berberian hired Chris Pelletier after Renegade Records, the label Chris was at at the time, licensed Mayhem’s U.S. Legions. Renegade ended up folding and SOM quickly snatched up Chris. This also gave Michael the option to have a free place to stay in the US when he comes over to stock up on Levi’s and teeth whitening systems, the latter being illegal in France.
What are the primary obstacles of working at a label where the home office is in a different country?
Besides the time difference, explaining how different the music industry works in the US. In Europe, you don’t have to pay to get your records on store shelves. Also, they don’t have some of the same marketing options as we do, such as radio, so explaining to them why we need to spend money on certain things is a regular occurance. And, in Europe, metal is more a part of the accepted culture, where in the US, it is seen as more as a “Beavis & Butthead” un-intellectual thing, which is an obstacle for sure.
Last year you released Cynic’s first record in 15 years. Did you have any hesitations about signing a band that’s been out of the spotlight for so long?
Absolutely not. We all are huge fans of the band and since this label was started by and still run by fans, it was a dream come true. If you think about it, not many of our bands even know what a spotlight is, most of them live in the dark, some in caves even. We also knew how influential Cynic was and predicted that many of today’s popular bands would jump at the chance of working with/helping out Cynic. We were right, so far, both Opeth and Meshuggah have personally invited Cynic on tour with them.
The acts on the label span the spectrum of metal. What does Season of Mist look for in signing a band?
Most importantly, Michael and the crew have to like the band. Also, even though the team has many similar interests, a lot of us are into music that the others may not be even though this music can still fit well under the Season of Mist banner. We do sign many proven bands that we like but also take chances on new bands simply because we like the music. We do try our best to pick up bands that we feel are either perfecting a certain sub-genre or inventing one.
How independent does SoM want to stay? Would you upstream your records to a major in exchange for an increased profile?
We are the Casey Kasem of metal. We keep our feet on the ground but keep reaching for the stars. I believe that we can still have an indie mindset and be a big label. If we would upstream to a major, it would help enable us to do the underground even more justice by giving it more support. Our new business model is to pick up a fewer smaller bands for the time being and invest in some monsters. Hopefully, this will bring in more loot to invest into the underground in the near future and keep the label afloat in these tough times.