Thursday, 27 March 2014

Interview with Adam Stone of Head of Crom

A problem with loving music so much, is that there is such an infinite amount out there, invariably there will always be something that passes you by.  The same could be said for labels I guess too, there is an abundance of DIY labels; however they are judged on the music and product they put out and much like bands, if they are of poor quality, no one is going to care too much. 

Head of Crom, a DIY label still in its infancy relatively speaking, has seen a surge in interest of late primarily based upon its association with releasing heavy ass music.  Indeed, I was drawn to the label following a promo I was sent for their CROM4 release of Slabdragger / Meadows, which I lauded over at the time.  Much to my dismay, I discovered HOC were responsible for vinyl releases of HBBM by Conan and also their brilliant split with Slomatics.  The problem therein, is that when you discover something late, invariably you miss the boat or in the case of HOC, you miss the opportunity to purchase the vinyl.  Having been a fan of the label since CROM4, I was drawn to the music of Slomatics and have since taken note of each subsequent release from HOC, latterly purchasing both Slomatics vinyl releases. 

I’m still scouring the tinterweb in search of CROM2, which seems to be more difficult than finding the Holy Grail; however what I have been able to do, is speak to the man responsible for Head of Crom, Adam Stone.  The man is a great dude.  Enjoy the interview.



(SL) Adam, what can fans look forward to from your label in 2014? How is your schedule shaping up? Any exclusives you can tell us about?

Adam Stone) First of all, I’d just like to say thank you for the interview mate. People like you are the life-blood of any music scene. My schedule is unmapped at the moment, and that’s how I like it. I’ve just released ‘Estron’ by Slomatics, and that is selling exceedingly well (mainly because it’s such an original, listenable and finely crafted long player that deserves everyone’s attention). That’ll keep me busy for a few months, and then we’ll see. In all honesty I don’t know what I’m going to release next. There are a few bands I want to approach, but until all is agreed, I would be foolish to announce anything. I do know this though; the next Crom record will be very heavy and most possibly it will achieve a certain psychedelic effect upon the listener. And the sleeve art will stun at a hundred yards (or the equivalent in metres).

(SL) For those people who are not familiar with your label, could you tell us a little about yourself, your label and why you decided to start  Head of Crom Records ?

AS) My label is called Head of Crom, and I started it in 2010 with my first release by the awesome Black Sun. I started a record label because at that point in time I had a bit of cash and I have always loved music, and I’d been toying with the enticing possibility of running my own little label for years. I couldn’t be arsed being in a band either. I did that when I was younger (I played bass in two short-lived local bands who went absolutely nowhere) and it was fun but in my mature years I fancied sitting back and orchestrating the creativity of other people. I’m not lifting amps anymore.

(SL) You’re a music fan first and foremost, right?   Given that music seems to be so disposal at times, do you place more importance on offering a great package to your customers, given the emergence of the digital age.  What is the ethos behind what you’re trying to do with the label? 

AS) I am a fan of music, yes. Not any music though. In fact there’s more stuff that I loathe than I love, but I’m particularly thinking of the ‘mainstream’ there. Crom, for me, is an attempt to recapture the glory of the great former independent labels of the seventies/eighties and nineties.

Those little labels that John Peel would regularly mention on his radio show, those labels that would appear in brackets after the title of the artiste in the independent charts printed in music magazines in the eighties. Labels who projected a definite feel and a distinctive statement, whether it was Factory in Manchester, Earache in Nottingham or Sub Pop in Seattle. Digital downloads present another dimension to accessing music, but the selling of records is most certainly an attempt to encourage the music fan to reconnect with the physical joy that is a record.

Who is Mr. Stone ??

My first experiences with discovering my own music were with tapes and records, and it felt special to own such an artefact. I hope people feel the same when they buy a Crom 12” vinyl. The artwork is also a very integral part of the whole experience too.

(SL) What, if any bands may have inspired you to start the label or was their a specific reason you felt you wanted to support the bands you have?

AS) I originally formed Crom because there was an opportunity to get involved with the release of Black Sun’s ‘Twilight of The Gods’. Also, throughout the early part of the 2000s, I knew that many of the bands arising were forming a very special scene, just like many hardcore bands did in the eighties. I wanted badly to be part of that, and to play a role in contributing to the rampant creativity amongst emergent heavy left-field music that was being borne out of various strands of hardcore, post-hardcore, noise, grunge and metal that had gone before.

(SL) Is there a specific person (s) that you looked up to in terms of modelling your label upon?

AS) Not a person, no. I’ve always respected SST, Sub Pop, Crass and other famous DIY labels though. They provided an inspiration, instead of actual individuals, although I’m aware that various people involved in running such labels are inspirational too. I prefer not to have heroes though. My nature, so to speak, is not to defer to single human beings as sources of inspiration, but to look to ideas and concepts which outlive individuals and take on a life of their own in time.

(SL) In your experience, how easy/difficult has it been to get coverage for your releases?

AS) Generally the promos I send out get reviewed, which isn’t bad is it? All the reviews have been good too. Promo is a tough nut to crack though, particularly if you are a small outfit like Crom. Money, unsurprisingly, buys you exposure, and I’m not willing to spend a fortune on adverts or PR. The promo/business side of the label is the facet of Crom that I enjoy the least, but it has to be done. I’m no fucking suit. I’m a free spirit. I like dancing in the woods, wanking in the bracken, drinking red wine under the full moon and singing ‘Born Free’ in Tesco

(SL) What do you look for in a band, in order for you to get involved in releasing their music?

AS) All the music released reflects a certain heavy and extreme facet of my listening tastes, and all the music is stuff that I personally rate as very high quality. If I don’t want to listen to a certain band then I don’t want to release material by them. I’ve got to love a band’s output to be motivated by the desire to see their records come to fruition. I regularly listen to all my back catalogue with a very smug sense of pride. Every single thing I’ve released has been brilliant. For instance, the Headless Kross cover of Amon Duul II’s ‘Deutsch Nepal’ off the CROM6 split is simply awe-inspiring.

It sounds truly massive, a real King Kong-sized riff-romp that fills the room with POWER. James Plotkin did an ace job there. He always does. The man is a must if you want anything heavy mastering.


(SL) Based on your own experience, what do you think is the most important thing for a new label to do in order to promote themselves and their artist (s)?

AS) I don’t know if I can go around giving advice to new labels. I’ve only been going four years myself. Myself, I like to communicate with people that buy the records. A sense of style is important to me too. I’m immensely proud of all the album covers on Crom. It’s very gratifying to employ artistic talent such as Tony Roberts, Scott Move and Andy Sloan.

(SL) What has been some of your favourite releases so far? 

AS) all of them. I have a soft spot for Black Sun’s ‘Twilight of The Gods’ though, which ironically has been the least successful release in terms of sales.

(SL) What are some of the difficulties/frustrations of running a label, because there are many other commitments such as family, work etc that perhaps restrict the amount of time you can dedicate to your label?  Not to mention the financial pressure? 

AS) Crom isn’t my job (which is a relief as I would be begging on the streets with an empty polystyrene cup if it was), it’s an interest that fills up some of my leisure time. My rate of activity is suitably down-tempo anyway with releases, which means I never get stressed with it. My income is derived through my work in a FE college in the North West. I lecture in social science, a job I enjoy a great deal. I’ve done some shit in the past though. Buffing floors, delivering letters, carrying bricks. It made me who I am today.

(SL) How valuable are blogs and social media? What are your thoughts on changes in the industry over recent years in terms digital versus CD/Vinyl? Some label perhaps do not advocate including DD codes for example?

AS) Blogs are interesting, but saturation is a problem. There is literally too much to read out there. I sometimes think there are too many bands out there too. Not dross either. Loads of brilliant music, but not the time to ingest it all. It would be okay if we had an average life span of about three hundred years. Regarding communication, I find a certain brand of social media very useful, and all the rest futile. I can’t be arsed keeping up with trends. I don’t do too badly for someone who can remember prime-time Slade being on Top Of The Pops. I’ll leave the multitude of ephemeral technological trends to young people with sleeve tattoos, short back and sides, skinny jeans and posh voices. I didn’t have a mobile phone until 2006. Regarding DD, I’ve run digital download codes for ‘Estron’, but previously I didn’t bother. If I buy a record, I do appreciate the digital music files too, so I can play the album on my CD player too, and my personal music player.

(SL) Given that you have a number of releases under your belt, how do you measure the success of each release, are you reliant on selling units in order to release the next one?

AS) Success could be measured in terms of sales, or in terms of creative excellence. Both is probably best. The stuff on Crom that sells slowly is still as good as the stuff that sells fast though. One pays for the other though. Too many slow-burners could mean the death-knell of any label. That’s why I’ve just signed Sleep for a three album deal.

I need CROM2, 3 & 6

(SL) Some labels place a significant importance on the releases having a sense of being a collectable, with Standard and Die Hard Editions.   What do you feel is the significance of releasing such a package (s)?

AS) I’ve always released limited edition vinyl just by virtue of the fact I never repress.

(SL) If you could have released any record past or present, what would it be and why?

AS) Excellent question. My list here could be extensive. Too extensive. It would have to be something on a similar level of low-key brilliance as the rest of my output. I wish I’d have put out Conan’s debut, ‘Horseback Battle Hammer’. Although I repressed it on white vinyl after it sold out on Throne, it would have been great to get there first. It’s an iconic record that boldly ushered in a new wave of British down-tuned rock. A game-changer, to borrow a very in-vogue term.

(SL) Has there been any bands you wanted to work with but for whatever reason it did not happen?

AS) Definitely Drunk In Hell. I love them for their uniquely cacophonous and ramshackle approach, and their fucking brilliant music. They are the ultimate ‘cult’ noise band in Britain today. I approached their drummer a while back to do an album, but they’d already made commitments to other parties. I’m still waiting for their debut to come out on Burning World, and it’s been about two or three years in the pipeline. I know Jurgen, who runs the label, is also a huge DIH nut. Maybe they’ll never release anything. That would be cool too. It would certainly add to their already legendary and mythological status.

Mr Stone vs. Slomatics

(SL) What would be your survival tips for longevity?

AS) Relax and enjoy it. Crom has only been going since 2010, so I’m probably not the best person to ask though.

(SL) Finally, do you have any final comments/word of wisdom you’d like to bestow upon us?

AS) If you are into music, then join the Head of Crom closed group on the world’s most popular social media site. We talk about classic albums and other related scatology. If you want wisdom, then don’t spend your life wanting things, it’ll make you miserable. If you get those things, then you’ll still be unhappy. Find contentment in nature, in simple communicative joy, in helping others. I’m not going to take credit for that particular chunk of insight by the way, that must go to a certain prince who lived well over two thousand years ago in the foothills of the Himalayas. Also question everything, including Buddhism. The trick is not to lapse into banal complacency. Go out cycling or walking several times a week, eat a balanced diet, and enjoy everything in balanced moderation. That includes masturbation.

Intro & Interview by : Aaron Pickford

Thanks to Adam for taking part in the interview.  You can purchase his current releases using the links provided.

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