Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Guest post: Behind the scenes at Century Media

Early this morning, I was awoken by the sound of breaking glass at our Midwest Technical Center. I quickly scrambled the S1Ws, my first thought being that someone might have been after our extensive archives of Wild Rags trivia. But no- instead, I found the following guest post scrawled on a My Own Victim flier, with no author given! With that said, we present it to you, the reader, in its unaltered state. We make no claims for or against its authenticity, although I did personally see some of these things a couple of years ago when I was at Century Media for a peacekeeping summit that I chaired (Despise You frontman and Century Media warehouse manager Chris Elder was the keynote speaker, although an OSHA raid of the CM warehouse prevented him from attending [the OSHA inspection really did happen, it was one of the most unmetal things I've ever witnessed]).

Much like the unwritten motto of Metal Inquisition (that is, exposing metal’s soft, often pudgy, underbelly of hilarity) I thought it’d be good to follow suit and further debunk some myths of the metal world. For this post let’s take a quick glance at Century Media Records.

This record has twice as many sawblades on the cover as "Human Waste" does!

This label can be very polarizing depending on who you’re talking to, and to better understand this label’s range and scope it’s wise to review the bands they’ve worked with – if only briefly. On one hand, they’ve released some solid “classic” metal albums back in the day (Grave, Unleashed, Tiamat, etc.) around the early 90’s. The label also had some cult classic releases that didn’t quite fit in with the label’s typical fanfare, bands like Eyehategod, The Gathering and Candiria to name a few random acts. CM even played a significant role in spreading black metal, especially in the U.S., with releases from bands like Emperor, Marduk, Mayhem, Ulver and many more. Unbeknownst to many, they actually had some decent mid-to-late 90s hardcore releases, most predominantly in Europe, from bands like My Own Victim, Only Living Witness, Cro-Mags, Meraurder, Crumbsuckers and others.

However, they’ve also produced some outright laughable acts that have helped bolster the mallcore/ozzfest generation (Lacuna Coil, In This Moment, Nightwish, etc.) I haven’t even touched power metal or their recent wave of pseudo-slam/metalcore bands like Winds Of Plague and Suicide Silence, let’s save that for another post.

In This Moment and Eyehategod: labelmates?! Yep.

In any event, there’s often a stigma of record labels in metal being somewhat larger than life. Further from the truth this could not be (see Wild Rags for a previously blogged about example). In fact, for a closer look at reality, and this is no joke, please rent and watch-if you haven’t already-‘Hedwig and The Angry Inch’ and ‘Spinal Tap’. These two movies are far more accurate than any magazine or sensational fairytale of metal glory.

But I digress; CM is no exception to metal misconceptions of skyscraper offices, big payrolls, and glamour. At the epicenter of CM is its robust warehouse where all of the above bands’ releases and thousands more reside. I learned that it’s actually a major watering hole for metalheads to buy their metal (I’ve been to Relapse Records and Victory’s warehouses among others, and CM’s is nothing to sneeze at). It’s your typical industrial-looking warehouse, like if you’ve ever seen the TV show ‘The Office’, with super high ceilings, hanging fluorescent lighting, Costco sized shelves and more.


Here’s a video of the band Warbringer jamming in the CM warehouse that might give you a better idea. Unfortunately a surly Chris Elder is nowhere to be found.

If you’re new to working at CM you must help with a yearly inventory check. It’s kinda like their way of “jumping you in” where EVERY SINGLE CD GETS COUNTED. It’s a pain and takes a dozen or so people several days to accomplish. This is where I first learned the existence of terrible metal bands like Green Carnation, Raven, Exciter to name a few. However I also discovered some real gems along the way. Chris Elder, of Despise You and Pessimiser Records fame – whom I’ve seen mentioned on here before, is the God of the warehouse. He’s like that guy on ‘Family Guy’ who Peter works with, the “bad ass with a heart of gold”. He’s quiet, nice and also intimidating when you first meet him (then again, being brought up in Inglewood will most likely give you a 1,000 yard stare easily).

Anyway, CM is located literally a few streets from the ‘Welcome to Inglewood’ sign. It’s not the best neighborhood, but certainly not the worst either. However, the car wash directly across the street did get held up and robbed in broad daylight and the Shotgun Crips frequently tag the area.

One thing, though, about the warehouse that was brutal was there were a row of offices out there as part of the warehouse, separate from the front actual OFFICE area (think of it as office overflow from the REAL office area and into the world of the warehouse). These were offices for accounting, IT, graphic design/advertising and others. An important part about warehouses is that they aren’t very well climate controlled, and CM’s was the worst. If it was summer time, you’d walk out of the front part of the building and into the warehouse-office area and instantly feel the sweat come to surface, it was HOT! In the winter people were wearing coats, beanies and scarfs – how crazy is that?! You go to your desk and sit down in front of your computer and you can nearly see your breath. There were space heaters everywhere; I even saw a blanket or two for some people. You’re supposed to work in this environment for eight hours a day, so everyone’s immune systems were put to the test.

The icing on the cake was the building CM occupies was intended for a staff of around 15-20 people (I believe it was a factory building originally for machine equipment); at this time, there were 50+ people working there. The power was so strained from everyone using so much electricity that the power would blow out spontaneously. So there you are freezing in the warehouse with next to no natural light (like many warehouses, there were only a few windows) in darkness and silence for anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. This was tolerated for months, sometimes happening up to a few times a day, before getting properly fixed.

In the last few years the CM office has gone through some renovations and those “warehouse offices” have now had a great facelift and are actually comfortable to work in instead of being the record label equivalent of bums warming their hands over flaming garbage cans.

One a brief side note, the warehouse requires special insurance since it does require a little more physical labor and it’s a more dangerous environment to work in so no one was allowed back there except for the warehouse workers, and anyone who was given permission to go there (or had a specific task or work question). Once in a while, though, certain celebrities would be able to check it out and basically “shop around”.

Century Media's PR whiz George Vallee (left) and Marco Barbieri (right; ex-No Glam Fags) with Casey Chaos

Celebrities is kind of a lose term though, from memory it could be someone like Casey Chaos of Amen to Satyr from Satyricon. So, take the aforementioned rough-around-the-edges neighborhood + crazy warehouse conditions and then throw a self-important metal band in the mix and it’s kind of a funny scenario.

Thanks to this anonymous reader for sharing some info on Century Media! Stay tuned for more CM-fellating in the form of an interview with Winds of Plague...

48 comments:

  1. Award for "Best Cover of any Century Media Relase" goes to... (drumroll)

    My Own Victim's "Burning Inside". How can you beat a cover that features a boxing midget?

    http://img512.imageshack.us/img512/3872/myownvictimburninginsidnr3.jpg

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    1. We hated that cover. Century Media picked it and we didn't see it until the album was released. We were like WTF?

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  2. I can't believe you insulted George Vallee and Marco by calling them those 2 guys from that horrible 'Talking Metal' show!

    And who knew Casey Chaos was still alive?!

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  3. I lashed out in anger because he wouldn't get back to me about interviews! George, I apologize. I'll make amends by purchasing your entire stock of Turmoil merchandise.

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  4. In 1997, when gothic metal with growls was the trend, I bought a forgettable Rotting Christ release ("A dead poem"), with an even more forgettable bonus CD inside, a CM compilation named "Darkness we feel".
    One year after, the majority of the bands featured in that compilation were vanished into obscurity, or dropped by the label...Alastis, Orphanage, Vasaria, Sundown...

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  5. Best guest post so far! Win for mentioning the almighty Only Living Witness.

    ...but why did you have to trash Green Carnation? I adore The Acoustic Verses and Blessing in Disguise.

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  6. Holy crap, Frank... did you just make those four band names up?

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  7. ahahah, no, he didn't. I have that cd too. The compilation cd featured Lacuna Coil too, with a song from their promo cd from 1996. I actually liked that song (which is in no other released from the band) and thought about looking for their future material. When I heard their ep in 1998 I realized the promo song was the only decent song they had and stopped caring about them. Never thought they were going to become so huge and repulsive. Still, I always wanted to hear that promo, since it has another song that wasn't published anywhere, and after checking M-A (a second ago), I want to hear that song even more, since this is what the band said about it:
    "The band asked its fans not do download/distribute 'Frozen Feeling'. The reasons for this remain unknown. 'Shallow End' however is available for download
    from their official website".

    Anyway, that compilation had also a track from the forthcoming (at the time) Ulver's nattens madrigal, which is awesome. But the rest, it's really forgettable, even the Unleashed song.

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  8. shit. i am saddened that a member of the almighty Despise You is employed by a shitty metal label.

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  9. I always wondered what type of people worked at those warehouses. I remember ordering stuff from Victory around 1993 or so, and getting not only the stuff i ordered, but also all the alternate stuff i had listed in case they were out of my first choices. once i figured this out, i started putting in more alternates than original items...sure enough, i got all of them. yay!

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  10. The Anna Nicole Smith tag is WinRAR. I wonder how many people will catch that. lol

    BTW: Who won the Decible book?

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  11. I had to travel last week so didn't get around to posting about the book, but I think the winner so far is... YOU! I'll post tomorrow or something about it.

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  12. Misfits: right, even the Unleashed song was forgettable, the dark, repetitive and experimental "Ragnarok", because a trendy label like CM wanted to market Unleashed as a dark/gothic band, I think.

    That Lacuna Coil song was surely better than their stuff to come, but I still think their debut EP was great...it featured the old line-up, with two different guitarists/songwriters.
    Lacuna Coil were great in their early incarnation, ETHEREAL...

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  13. I would sell my soul to smell Cristina Scabbia's hair :(

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  14. @Frank: you are right, the first ep was good. The problem is that I was expecting for growls and maybe some female vocals, but it actually had all female vocals, so at first I was totally disappointed, but after hearing it a couple of times, I ended up linking it. Anyway, after that I lost track of them until I saw a video of them in 2003(?) on MTV's Headbangers ball. That's when I found out how low they had fallen.

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  15. i want to know how in the hell my own victim got on century media. i mean, i don't think even hardcore kids liked 'em.

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  16. Sweeeeet! I thought I may have had a shot. Darb was some tough competition though.

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  17. Sarg.. If I were to ever hook up with Christina, I'd let you smell my thumb in gratitude for all the smiles MI has given me.

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  18. Cristina is hot...he used to work as a bartender in that pub where "Bestie di Satana" gathered before doing sacrifices.

    http://cicutattack.blogspot.com/2008/01/le-bestie-di-satana-i-parte-il-midnight.html

    @ Misfits: I saw Lacuna live with the old line-up, they were good, then they splitted and when I listened to the full lenght ("In a reverie", I guess 1998) I understood that CM had now complete control of the band.
    Commercial crap, with no more actual "gothicness".

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  19. @Frank

    rotting christ weren't dropped though! dead poem rocks \m/

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  20. I read in some zine interview that the guy who runs century media is a bald fatty in a star wars sweat shirt. That's probably why they signed My Own Victim

    Lucho Metales, I have to disagree. The worst Century Media album cover is the misprinted Emperor / Enslaved split CD. They printed every single copy with a RED cover. How could anyone fuck that up?

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  21. But said interview may have been with Dead World. The kind of band not even CM would sign.

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  22. my own victim were leading figures in the hardcore-ish scene of Louisville Kentucky...aside from Endpoint...but that's another story. Oh, and there was also Kinghorse, best known for having Danzig produce their album, and having Pushead do their cover.

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  23. It said DANZIG on that kinghorse album in larger lettering than it actually said Kinghorse!

    Hilarious! Youre not man enough to open this cage!

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  24. The guy who runs CM was the former singer of DESPAIR (also featuring CM producer, Mr. Waldemar Sorychta), he founded the label just to release his own records!

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  25. If you got extras from Victory any time in the '90s it's because everyone working there despised Tony and, eventually, the label so much giving that choad's merch away for free while collecting paychecks (and disillusionment, and abuse) seemed like the only ethical thing to do.

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  26. I wonder how one can write a lengthy article on Century Media Records and NOT mention the aural shit-storm that is iwrestledabearonce? This band offers all the flash-in-the-pan trends that metal labels salivate over: a chick lead singer that offers grindcore 'waaah! waaah! waaah!' screeching, pig squealing, and the ultra coveted –- albeit off-key -- female singing; gratuitous breakdowns; deedly-deedly-dee solos; and wannabe Chick Corea ambient segments. Plus, they cater to both the scene (see Urban Outfitters) and the beardo (see beards and rapist glasses) crowds.

    Off topic, but the new Obituary is the best they've done since “Cause of Death”. It's just groove after groove –- a complete groove salad!

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  27. Dear Frank,

    Fuck you for calling Rotting Christ a bygone trend. Greek black metal has never been anywhere near as trendy as the stuff from Norway (if you don't believe me, look at how many posers like to wear Dimmu Borgir and Burzum shirts, not that there's anything musically wrong with Norwegian black metal) and then think about how nu metal was the trend in 97 that everyone bought into. Then think about how Rotting Christ could headline earlier this year unlike most of those trendy nu metal bands. And A Dead Poem was one of their best releases.

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  28. The best Rotting Christ release was Passage to Arcturo. A Dead Poem was where they took a shit dive. Having said that I bought their new DVD recently and some of the newer songs sound pretty good, so it looks like they've finally got over their faggy Goth phase, which is when I stopped listening to them. I hope I'm not a trend by wearing a Burzum shirt? I've been wearing them (not the same one obviously...) since 1991. The first one I bought came from Euronymous himself.

    I also used to work in a warehouse myself, when I got so sick of archaeology for a few months, so I can relate to this piece. The place I worked packed computer games and this is where I got to find out about Harvest Moon, surely the sweetest game in the world... No fighting, just farms. Awwww.

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  29. "A Dead Poem" really is when people started to question the artistic integrity of Rotting Christ, though. I think this happened to a lot of bands who singed to CM, like they now had a license to put out a fruity album and get paid.

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  30. You guys forgot to mention Century Media's "best" band: Demolition Hammer

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  31. Another awful band from Century Media was Enchantment. The music itself was good, being Paradise Lost/My Dying Bride inspired doom/death metal; however, the band employed one of the worst death metal singers of all time. His vocals are so terrible that he makes latter day Glen Benton and Chris Barnes sound fresh and enjoyable. I actually tried to like this album – even vainly attempting to ignore the vocals -- but since he barks every second, it's virtually impossible. It's as if the vocalist went out of his why to dive-bomb the band's career, which he did: they broke up a few months after it was released even though they had a six album deal with Century Media.

    Destroying a six album deal with Century Media, though, may have been more shrewd than I had previously imagined, now that I think about it. One would easily make more money folding clothes at Zara for a month than from the sales of six albums released by that label.

    Damn – I didn't know Rotting Christ was held as a national treasure in Greece. You fucked up royally, Frank.

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  32. For the record : I took that Eyehategod picture ...

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  33. Rotting Christ is one of my favorite black metal bands, but Frank is right about Dead Poem. I can't even remember a song from that album. Their last very good album was Triarchy, and the best one, Thy Mighty Contract. Passage To Arcturo is very good, but not their best in my opinion.
    And finally, Enchantment was awesome. I love that album, even with those vocals. I didn't find anything wrong about them. I think they perfectly fit the music.

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  34. Misfits, I would have loved the Enchantment album if he had only used clean vocals, but his death metal vocals are atrocious. He sounds like a constipated Cookie Monster. He completely ruined an otherwise very strong and original doom/death album.

    I went to a concert that had Rotting Christ on the bill. I went to take a piss and get another beer when they played. Septicflesh was supposed to play as well, but thankfully didn't show.

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  35. I had the Enchanment demo and I thought it was pretty good, the singer gave me a rehearsal track and told me not to trade it, which I promptly tried to do. The bastard that I tried to trade it with snitched on me and the singer was pissed with me. I'm not proud of that still.

    Harvest Moon rocks, the place I used to work had a games console in the coffee room and when we were asked each week what games we wanted in it I always voted for Harvest Moon. It never was put in though...

    Rotting Christ: Inside the Eyes of Algond, one of my favourite songs EVER!

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  36. Wow Alex, you had that demo? I could never found a copy of it (even in mp3 format) that was complete. The one I always found had 3 songs.

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  37. Listening to Lacuna Coil can be like watching porn. When Cristina's singing it's like, "Oh, baby! Don't stop!" but then the dude with the screeching death metal voice comes in and it's like when the camera cuts to a close-up of the ugly porn guy's O-face. It's a total boner-killer.

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  38. harvest moon is nowhere as great as animal crossing.

    also, kudos for probably what is the most legitemately informative MI post to date.

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  39. Misfits, I think I still have the demo somewhere, I will look when I get home if you are interested. I should still have the rehersal song somewhere as well... If you want I can try to get them all put onto MP3 format and email them to you. No promises though...

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  40. Wow, I'd love if you can do that Alex, seriously! I really, really appreciate that you offer to do that. Thanks a lot, and I mean it! Anyway, in case you find them and have time to rip them, my email is:
    alvaromisfits at gmail . com.

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  41. "Sweeeeet! I thought I may have had a shot. Darb was some tough competition though."

    Robbed!!!

    Wasn't there two books? ;)

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  42. After watching that Warbringer clip where they admit they didn't know who Bill Metoyer is...all I can say is fuck off posers!

    Never heard this fucking band until now, knew the name, but never bothered to check em out, all these bands rehash happy thrash riffs just like old Testament!

    NOTHING THAT I WANT TO HEAR!

    And for not knowing who BM is, they now have none of my respect...fucking pussies!

    Oh, you think you must work with him cause he produced a DRI record you trendy fags!?

    BUT YOUR WEARING A BATHORY T-SHIRT?
    I FIND IT HARD TO BELIEVE THIS KIDS KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT QUORTHON EITHER!

    FUCK OFF KIDS!

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  43. In your blog you have written little about tv shows. But this is good you have written. I like tv shows. So I suggesting you that you have art of writing you should add some more about tv shows. your all article in your blog is very nice.

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