Trendkill Recordings is an up-and-coming French record label that we discovered through its signing of Pristina — a U.S. band whose 2010 album The Drought (Ov Salt and Sorrow) we thought was awesome. (Read our review here.) Since then, we’ve discovered more of the bands in the Trendkill stable, and it’s a remarkably varied and remarkably good group of artists.
Recently, we got the chance to conduct an e-mail interview of Virgil Palazzolo, the founder and impresario of Trendkill Recordings and Trendkill Entertainment, and a musician in his own right. If you want a bit of insight into the mind of a dude responsible for signing a wide range of bands to recording contracts, distributing a diverse catalogue of albums, and organizing tours and shows in Europe — and who’s on the verge of opening a U.S. office in 2011 — then you ought to read what follows.
Our interview covered topics such as his perspectives on the music business in the Age of Download, what he looks for in potential Trendkill signings, his label’s plans for the new year, and new Trendkill releases on the horizon, among others. We thought it was a damned interesting conversation, and hope you will, too. So read on . . . after the jump.
NCS: Through Trendkill, you have at least two sides to your business: operating a record label (Trendkill Recordings) and booking bands for concerts and tours (Trendkill Entertainment). How much of your time do you spend on each of those two endeavors?
VP: You’re right but there’s no real schedule between each side. We are working on both all day long! These ones are the main activities of Trendkill for now but by getting more people involved today we have something like 6 different sides of the company. Label is a big priority right now. A new booking roster will be announced next year . . .
NCS: What services does Trendkill Recordings offer to the bands it signs? To put the question differently, why should a band sign a contract with Trendkill instead of self-releasing their album?
VP: Trendkill Recordings is offering worldwide distribution and promotion to artists signed to the label and also can help with a lot of things like shows and tour booking in Europe and the US. We are pressing CDs and LPs and we are also dealing with Digital of course.
The company is really growing right now and we’ll do bigger things next year for sure with our US office which is opening up. Some cool bands are joining us for releases and tours, and we are starting new activities. A band can do a ton of things itself but you need someone dedicated to all the band’s business and this is a lot of time to spend on — pretty hard for a band and an internal source of conflicts sometimes.
NCS: My first exposure to a Trendkill band was Pristina and their album “The Drought (Ov Salt and Sorrow)”, which I thought was amazing. Since then, I’ve listened to a few songs from a random handful of other current or former Trendkill artists, and the music seems to be all over the genre map. Lucky Funeral (from Athens) seems to be a cross between hardcore and stoner metal; Brutal Rebirth (from Marseilles) sounds like old school death-doom; Hysteria (from Lyons) churns out some brutal death metal; Night Terrors (from Melbourne, Australia) is avant-garde instrumental post-rock/electro, with synthesizers and, of all things, a theremin (!); Vorkreist (from Paris) is a hybrid of black-death metal; and Nesseria (from Orleans) seems to be an unpredictable (but very intense) mix of grindcore and sludge. What drew you to such a wide variety of bands? Is there some unifying quality that all these bands had that appealed to you?
VP: Trendkill Recordings is an open-minded label, simply because music is my life and I can’t imagine the label in an other way. I don’t care about a particular style and I don’t care about signing big commercial acts. I just want to release what I want, when I want, based on quality, sincerity, integrity and passion! I’ll probably release more things outside of the “metal” universe, but I’ll never change the way it is right now and will certainly put out some extreme releases . . . . This is in fact the significance of our name, TRENDKILL!
NCS: This next question may be repetitive of the previous one, but what do you look for when you listen to a demo or EP from an unsigned band that sends you their music? How do you choose what to pursue as a potential signing and what to pass over?
VP: First off, signing a band after receiving a promo pack is RARE! Usually I’m already aware of the band through shows and word of mouth. But you never know. I listen to everything that comes through. Music is the first priority. If the music rules, then I’m contacting the band and checking out their goals for the future. If we are on the same line, let’s get a contract sorted!
NCS: If you could give advice to an unsigned band looking for label support, what would you tell them?
VP: Never give up, don’t do something you don’t want to, especially changing your music style! Go ahead with the right people and move your ass off to spread your band’s name everywhere! Don’t forget the main thing: have fun and enjoy all moments you can live with your bandmates, even the worst ones. Don’t try to be like another artist because they have a cool career. Be yourself!
NCS: Since Pristina is on my mind, how did a French label come to sign a band from Connecticut? How did you connect with Pristina?
VP: I read some news about the new album online and heard that it would be a self-released one… I reached out to Brendan K Duff (Pristina bass/vocals) via email and started sharing thoughts about a possible signing on the label. After several delays, closing the company, moving the office etc., the album was released in September 2010 and is now available as CD, LP and digital.
I love their music and this band means a lot to Brendan. You can feel it and understand it through the music and the words inside the layout. Their album just sounds great. Can’t wait to hear the next one. They have massive potential and I’m sure that their next effort will blow me away!
NCS: Looking to the future, could you give us a preview of what Trendkill Recordings has in store for metal fans in 2011?
VP: The main thing will be the opening of our US office in early 2011. We’ll be able to work on the latest releases’ promotion and distribution in a better way there. Brutal Rebirth‘s Death Row, The Night Terrors‘ Back To Zero, Lucky Funeral‘s The Dirty History of Mankind and several back catalog releases, as well as some bestseller re-issues like Nesseria‘s self titled, Tanen‘s last album, Vorkreist, Hysteria, and maybe an old awesome release from a band called Fiend, with current and ex-members of Ministry, Senser, Kickback and more!
We are also preparing a ton of new releases, including the release of the last Candiria effort, Kiss the Lie, as a limited digipack (finally after 5 years it can see the light of the day on CD, exclusively on Trendkill Recordings!), and preparing new signings for the upcoming year. Trying to sort something out with one technical death metal band from Canada (nice shirt in my picture, isn’t it?… I think you’ve just talked about them on the website…), and just inked a deal with the cult band, maybe the most hated band ever, the one and only Anal Cunt! We’ll release two albums for them and they’ll be in Europe for a 5 week tour in the spring! They haven’t released anything since ’99 so I’m pretty proud and excited as a fan. Some bigger names will come next year, all good projects.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes, by coincidence, we did recently talk about that Canadian band — Archspire — on NCS at this location, and shit, are they good!]
NCS: I prefer CDs to digital downloads of music, and I also happen to believe that since I can afford it, I ought to pay for the music I want instead of downloading it illegally. On the other hand, I’m probably a dinosaur, and if I didn’t have a day job that paid me well enough to afford my principles, I’d be out there downloading for free like so many others. Who do you think the people are who actually pay for the music Trendkill releases, i.e., do you have an idea what your customer base looks like?
VP: I’m selling worldwide through my webshop and I think that my customer base looks like the label: open minded! Sometimes I can add my customers to our Facebook profile and can see who they are. No rules, no typical profile… Music fans, that’s all, from 15 to 45 years old, I guess. I’m not here to satisfy one kind of person anyway, so this is simply perfect!
NCS: A related question: how does a label like Trendkill make any money when your releases are up on multiple torrent sites within 24 hours of the release date, if not before?
VP: Don’t really care, can’t stop this plague unfortunately… But many fans show respect by buying stuff too. At least the downloading is free promotion for us and our artist’s music, and if people like it, they’ll buy it! So it sucks but we are definitely going ahead, no compromise.
NCS: Now let’s change subjects and talk about Trendkill Entertainment. I know you book lots of European tours for both European bands and North American bands (and bands from elsewhere, too). What I don’t know is how you do it. For the uneducated, could you give us a brief summary of how that business works?
VP: Pretty simple. I discuss conditions with the bands, try to close a budget, and spread the word to a ton of partners and contacts everywhere. We must get enough money from promoters to cover the budget, get the best routing sorted to avoid long drives, and work on logistics, backline, promotion, advance money, etc. Getting well known bands for a tour is only a financial question.
NCS: Of course, lots of U.S. bands would love to tour in Europe. What do you look for in deciding whether it would be feasible to book a U.S. band for a European tour?
VP: Conditions are way better in Europe and every band, especially smaller ones, wants to come here. But they must understand that touring in front of 20 people, even if you have enough money to afford it, is completely useless! A ton of small bands are touring here, but the audiences don’t give a fuck, man. You must (at least) have a release with some promotion and distribution to build your live name… and even some mid-range bands need to pay if they want to play. This system is a big business here and that’s why you can find a cool headliner with a strange and unknown opening band, destroying tours! Booking is pretty similar to the label stuff — getting in touch with cool bands, negotiating conditions, etc.
NCS: Do you also organize U.S. tours for European bands? If so, does that present any special challenges that you don’t encounter in your European booking operation?
VP: We’ll surely start to work on US tours next year. Right now our goal is to build our name in the US with our upcoming US office and agents. Maybe we’ll be able to discuss results by Christmas time next year. Give us some time, man!
NCS: I’ll try! Though “Impatient” is one of my middle names (among others). I know that in addition to operating the various aspects of Trendkill’s business, you’re also a musician yourself and have been a member of bands such as Loathing and Morgue, in addition to doing session work in the studio. Are you still an active part of any of those bands, or has Trendkill become all-consuming?
VP: Right now, all my bands are in stand-by position because of the ton of work here, but some of these projects are still alive and I’ll hopefully be back on stage and studio next year. Loathing is a death metal act — hasn’t recorded anything since 2001 and is pretty different today, working with a well known line-up. 666 Seconds Of Chaos is a grindcore project. We’ve played a bunch of shows with cool bands but nothing planned until the first release, should be a split. Starting an insane new project with my wife — more news to come next year for sure !
NCS: Did your experience as a musician and band member play a role in your decision to start Trendkill, and if so, how?
VP: Of course, I started my first label 10 years ago because of my own band. We were looking for a label and I was in touch with a Finnish band for a split CD. Some months later I released it myself. It worked out great and some friends asked for help, you know the story… Back in 2007, Trendkill was born with one simple goal only: booking bands. But sure enough I expanded beyond booking and the label was born… Now we have something like 30 releases out in about 3 years and a ton of distributed titles and upcoming ones! Shit happens, haha.
NCS: Before I close, is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers, whether it’s Trendkill news, or observations about the industry?
VP: You can follow us everywhere: Myspace, Facebook, Reverbnation, Twitter, Bandcamp etc… We are currently working on a big party in NYC in March for my birthday bash and the US office opening, so if you live in the area, you know what to do! The music industry is fucked but music in its purest way will never die, thanks to all the amazing artists, labels, media, and especially you, the fans! FROM THE FANS, FOR THE FANS.
NCS: Thanks again for making time to answer our questions, and best of luck to you.
VP: THANX to you man! Your support is really appreciated. Hope to get in touch with you through our US crew next year. Check our webshop (a US one will be available next year) for all Trendkill releases.
Horns up! \m/