Friday 10 April 2015

Interview with Gero from Argonauta Records

Today's guest has been a good friend to Sludgelord recently. His record label has provided stunning releases from Last Minute To Jaffna, Deaf Eyes, Witch Charmer, Beneath The Storm, Bantoriak, MAGI and Kayleth. Plus he's releasing future albums by one of my fave Italian Sludge Metal Overlords – NIBIRU.

The label I'm talking about is Argonauta Records who have had a stunning year releasing awesome albums by bands that have been acclaimed all over the world. The genius behind this label is Gero. A person who is passionate about music in general and the bands he signs to his great label.

I wanted to return the favour and get an interview with the great man as Gero is doing a killer job releasing great records and promoting some fantastic bands that I wouldn't of heard of. Bantoriak, Deaf Eyes and Kayleth being cases in point.

So lets get started with Gero.

Hi Gero. How's it going. Thanks for doing this interview. Much appreciated.

Thanks Steve! I’m following The Sludgelord since the beginning, today I can say it’s a dream comes true having this interview with you.

Can you tell our readers how Argonauta Records started and why you started the label.

Argonauta Records started as idea in 2009. I met up with a bunch of old friends after many many years. Immediately it was clear to all of us to start again a band we are involved in during the end of the ‘90ies. I decided this time that if we ever arrived to release any album, we should have a proper promotion and dedicated channels to make it available around. I can say the label almost started as a joke when in 2012 we printed our first album.

Immediately we got in touch with many bands, magazines and so, looking for collaboration. That moment is when I took the decision that Argonauta would have been not only a label for my band, but something more for other interesting entities. In almost one year I was able to care all the first details to officially start by the end of 2013 as a full time working label.

Why did you choose the name Argonauta Records. Any specific meaning. Unless you're a huge Jason And The Argonauts fan.

Of course I’m a huge fan of Jason and the Argonauts as well of each movie and creature born by the mind of Ray Harryhausen. Also I’m fond on Greek Mythology, where Argonauts came from. Not to mention also “Argonauta” is the scientific name of a kind of Octopus, so something related to the Lovecraftian world, which I’m confident with since I was very young.

Was it a hard experience setting up the record label. Looking back would you do anything differently.

It’s a hard experience, yes, especially because running a label is not a job like others. Had to do many considerations with the family as you have to be ready to give up to some certainties you are usually accustomed to. It’s not easy, but I did a pact with myself, to dedicate 100% to this new adventure with a primary concept: to NOT procrastinate anything anymore. I have now complete control of my life and business, working with the bands I love, spending my time the way I decide. To have done something different? Only a regret, I should have started this job years ago, I waited too much, ah ah!

You mainly focus on the Doom/Sludge/Stoner/Drone/Post-Metal scene. Would you release something from another genre such as Grindcore, Black Metal.

I think I can be defined a music enthusiast, I do listen everything I found interesting, no matter the kind of music, the name of the band and so. But with my label I prefer to concentrate my time on my first love in music. Doom, Stoner, Post Metal and related. It is where I came from, so I can care all the details at best as I can.

Do you have a set of rules and ideals that you stick to when signing a band. Are there things that would make you not sign a band to your label.

You have to know I have many interests in my life. One of these is the world of Super-heroes. You know, Spider-Man, Captain America, ... Music does not need super heroes. I like hard work, humility and at the same time having fun all together, with the unique purpose to make a good job for the label and our bands.

The thing I like about your label is even though your main focus is on the Italian music scene you still release albums by other great bands and artists around the world. How do you find all these artists. Do they submit material to you or do you find them browsing the internet and social media.

Yes, being an Italian label, it helps me to “give voice” to many interesting bands we have here, which is a cool thing indeed. At the same time the thing I love more is to discover by myself the talents across the world, I listen tons of music on daily basis and many Argonauta bands were contacted by me as first step. Also, I receive messages with YouTube links, demo and so by other people interested to collaborate with me. It is all very cool, I love to listen to everything I receive, to know new trends, different approaches. Actually I can say our bands are 50% discovered or contacted by me and 50% from submissions.

We have to talk about the Italian Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal scene. It's very highly thought of through out the world thanks to awesome bands such as Ufomammut, Zippo, ISAAK, Doomraiser and a ton more that I may of forgotten to mention. What is the scene actually like in Italy. Is the Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal scene on the rise in Italy. Or is it still firmly in the underground.

I personally know or am in touch with many Italian bands of the so-called “scene”. For this reason I hope to choose my words correctly, in English, to explain my standpoint, which is a POSITIVE opinion towards them: I see tons of interesting Italian bands working hard to make their music available... outside of Italy!

It happens because Italy could be a very weird and difficult country. Think for example of the difficulties to arrange a mini-tour in our towns. It could be so hard that the only result you get is to split-up the band. Of course there are also positive things, there is a lot of audience and dedicated people, but all seems to be still in the world of insiders only.

I want to thank you for sending some awesome albums my way and including some of my reviews on the advertising with Nibiru especially. That means a lot. So thank you. How helpful has the Sludge/Doom/Stoner Metal community been in promoting your work as your label is highly thought of.

I’ve to say it is a great thing, not expected at all this attention our releases receive across the board. Considering also we’re a very young label with still a lot to do day by day. And the Sludge/Doom/Stoner community help us to grow up and to search for better results in each moment. This is the main reason I sent around our releases, I love to get feedbacks, with reviews and so, and also talking privately when possible.

You currently focus on releasing products on CD/DD only. Are there any plans to release any of your albums on Vinyl in the future. Or is that too expensive to do at the moment.

You have to know I’m a huge fan of vinyls. But it is too expensive to do at the moment, and being a very young label I need to be very careful with each step I do, not affording the loss of resources and time. We already did our first vinyl the past year, with a great Swedish band, KOLOSS. Now, though the main format will be the CD version, we are working to have more vinyls in the future.

How hard is it for an independent record label like Argonauta Records to operate in today's markets. Especially with the download culture still sadly going on around us. Can it be an uphill struggle or do the positives outweigh the negatives.

The main problem is to see how people think it’s easy to get everything they need, stream, download and so. Everything is available everywhere. I remember when I was a kid, the great thing of being a music fan, is to search for your fave artists in the worst music shops around the world, haha! It made you think to have something special for your own or to share with your friends. Now it is totally different, but I understand progress IS progress, no problems. “Download” is not a problem on its own, the focal point is to make people conscious behind a record there is usually a lot of work, not only by the band.

Now a few people may not know but your a guitarist in Italian Sludge/Post-Metal Band – Varego. Which is a fantastic band in it's own right. How did you become involved with Varego. And what's the current status with the band.

Ahah, thanks for this question! Yes, I’m also a Varego guitarist. We are a band of very old friends. Accidentally, we met after so many years in 2009 and said “Hey, what about to resume the band?”. By the end of the ‘90ies we were a sort of grunge/stoner band. Just the time to find a rehearsal room, to keep again alive our instruments and then in a few months we were able to track down around ten songs.

I contacted legendary Billy Anderson asking him if he could be interested to work with us and so it happened! We were totally stoked, and decided to work with him also with our second work released in 2013, also featuring another legend of contemporary music, Jarboe, singing lyrics written by me on music of my band. I still can not believe it while I’m telling you, haha! Actually we are working on our new songs, we are not a very fast band I’ve to say, but we are on it. Maybe we will do a single release soon, to anticipate the forthcoming album. Let’s see.

Do you find it hard to be apart of the band whilst still running Argonauta Records. Though I've heard a rumour you will be releasing the new Varego album on your label in the future. Can you confirm or deny that rumour. HA HA

Yes, haha, I’ll surely release the new stuff on Argonauta, haha! And it’s not hard to be a part of the band. I just care both things at best I can do.

When you started the label did you receive any help from friends telling you what you should do or shouldn't do.

Once an old friend of mine had for me some special words: “In this crazy world, if someone still have to open a record label, this someone is you”. I’m lucky to have friends like this. And I’ve many of them I can speak of my work with. And today too, I’ve closed friends helping me on different aspects, and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank a bunch of them, Gabriele (INFECTION CODE singer and my right-hand man), Barbara (running Argonauta Press Office) and Marco (of SHABDA and THEE MALDOROR KOLLECTIVE, doing many of our graphic work such as covers, posters or t-shirts).

There are a ton of great labels doing some major things within the scene such as STB Records, Ripple Music, Riding Easy Records, Pink Tank Records and Magnetic Eye Records. Have you had any contact with those labels. Are you a fan of their work. Or do you focus on your own thing.

I know all those labels, though I’ve been not in touch with them directly. I really love albums by Monolord or Summoner, just to name a few. So I can say I’m a fan of all their work and their attitude. I’ve planned to be in touch with them in the next future, unless they read this interview and think “Another crazy guy to take care of, no way!” haha!

This is going to be a hard question to answer. But which artist and band has been your favourite to work with so far. Or the favourite you've signed to your label. (You've already signed my fave Italian band – Nibiru – to your label. And their new album is fucking incredible. Damn. What a head trip. Review due soon).

I was quite sure you would have good feelings with the new NIBIRU, indeed a head trip! I’ve no favourite artists in the label, just because I carefully choose the bands to work with. Each artist I’m in touch with has his own methods to approach music and related things. This is the most interesting and thrilling aspect of this job, from my standpoint. I learn a lot by all of them, I want to learn and I’m pleased to do it.

What are future plans for the label. I know you have Denizen, Tovarish and NIBIRU albums being released soon. Can you tell us anymore future releases to look out for.

While answering this interview, I’m also taking care of Bantoriak preorders, shipping in few days. Denizen are now on the way. May will be the month of Tovarish and Nibiru, yes. Actually I’m working hard on final details for ARGONAUTA FEST, this is the first official fest of the label, a party with some bands of the family we hope it can be an annual event.

Then this year we’ll have highly anticipated new albums by SHABDA, BENEATH THE STORM and FROM OCEANS TO AUTUMN. While working on the reissue of “Ashes” by SUMA and on the album by LOWBURN from Finland, a really crushing stoner band managed by Battlelore members. And something more!

If you could provide any helpful information or advice to someone wanting to start their own record label. What would it be.

If this is your deep conviction, put all of yourself and do not give up if the first results will not be good. Find your way to perform the various aspects of the work and stick always to your guidelines.

Well Gero, Thanks for doing this. Really appreciate this. Keep up the excellent work with your label.

Thanks a ton to you Steve, to the Sludgelord crew and to your readers! It’s a pleasure to speak and explain more aspects of the label with people interested in our bands. Cheers!

I want to thank Gero for doing this interview. A great person who is running a fantastic label and promoting amazing bands for us to enjoy.

Words by Steve Howe and Gero Argonauta

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