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 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 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...