Label Spotlight: Pulverised

posted September 13, 2010

by Corinne


Please introduce yourself.

Roy Yeo, label manager and Calvin Chiang, A&R Manager.

When and why was the label started?

Roy Yeo: Pulverised Records was started in 1996. [It] was initially started by 3 guys, namely Leng Hiang and Ayong and myself, with an immense passion for all things Death Metal. The main push that started the label was when I listened to the Amon Amarth demo and liked it so much, I asked if they would be interested to release a CD and they were. And after the success of the Amon Amarth Mini CD, we started to receive demos especially from Sweden and from there we went on the sign more Swedish bands. The focus from the start was that Pulverised Records signs only quality bands and also bands that we personally enjoy. During the active 4 years, Pulverised went on to sign a healthy number of Metal bands, mainly from Sweden. Some of the albums that Pulverised Records had released went on to become classic albums that are even sought after until today.

Calvin Chiang: The label went on a hiatus in 2000 but Roy decided to resurrect the label again in 2004 as the label was something that he could not let go off. Roy approached me to help him out with the label and I was more than honoured to take up the task. So from 2004 onwards, we went on to sign bands like Sathanas, Opposition Party, Quest Of Aidance, 21 Lucifers, In Aeternum, My Own Grave, etc. At almost the same time, we also licensed 2 very important Metal albums namely the last ever Dissection album ‘Reinkaos' and Watain's ‘Sworn To The Dark' for Asian territories.

How many employees does the label currently have?

Chiang: Believe it or not, Pulverised Records is only a 2-man operation, which just consists of just Roy and myself. Roy has to handle his family business but his day-job schedule is very flexible, so you can say that both of us are doing the label full-time. I decided to quit my regular day job and started working with Pulverised on a full-time basis and it is a very satisfying feeling to see the label getting so much more attention than ever before. With the modern technology getting better these days, a lot of things could be done in such a short time and everything is almost just an email away.

What kind(s) of music does the label put out?

Chiang: That's an easy question. I am sure people who already know us should know that we are an extreme Metal label, signing genres like Death, Black, Thrash, Doom, etc.

What was the first release and how was it financed?

Yeo: The first Pulverised released was Amon Amarth's "Sorrow Throughout The Nine Worlds" Mini-CD. I got the Amon Amarth demo from the band and totally enjoyed it, so I wrote to the band and asked if Pulverised Records was able to release something for them. They wanted to sign for just one record deal and so they went to Abyss Studio and recorded their debut mini-CD release. We ran into a lot of problems as that was our first release and everything was new to us. Furthermore, to release our first release on a digipak format was an even bigger challenge. Things were not that advanced during those days so it took a while before we managed to get the digipak release out. But all our efforts had paid off and we are very proud to have release a digipak Mini-CD of such high quality. I would not deny that a lot of people probably knew about Pulverised because of Amon Amarth and we are still very proud to have had Amon Amarth as a part of our legacy, but in truth, we all have to move on and look forward to signing even better bands that are out there.

What is the most recent release?

Yeo: The most recent release we put out was Bastard Priest's "Under The Hammer Of Destruction." Totally awesome and very filthy combination of Death Metal and Crust Punk. We licensed it from Sweden's Blood Harvest Records, so this is a worldwide CD release from us while Blood Harvest Records will be releasing the LP version. Also, keep a look out for the brand new Algaion full-length album "Exthros" as well, it should be released by the time you are reading this interview.

What has been your most successful release?

Chiang: We take a lot of pride in all of our releases, but unfortunately some releases might not get the deserving attention that it needed. The Guillotine "Blood Money" album probably left us with the deepest
impression, as there was a decent amount of promotion and eventually it was rather well-received. We were a bit surprised with how well Tribulation was doing sales-wise, for the fact that "The Horror" was a debut effort. Same thing with Bone Gnawer's "Feast Of Flesh," which was also a debut album as well. Besides the fact that ex-Massacre growler Kam Lee being involved, and honestly speaking, "Feast Of Flesh" was really already an instant classic favourite with the fans.

There's been a lot of talk the past few years about vinyl coming back into fashion. Have you seen any significant increases in interest from fans or bands wanting to go vinyl?

Chiang: Indeed there have been some requests from our bands that we should also include a vinyl release to go along with the CD version. Definitely a much bigger interest in the vinyl market, with everything going retro these days but there is still no big demand on our side.

Pulverised had a "new beginning" in 2004. Tell us a little about the rebirth.

Yeo: In 2004, I decided to resurrect Pulverised Records again as I felt that the label was simply something that I could not let go off. The first signing after the 4-year break was one of Singapore's longest running band Opposition Party. I met Francis Frightful, the vocalist/guitarist of Opposition Party through some mutual friends and he told me that Opposition Party had already recorded a new album and was looking for a label to release it, and so this was the catalyst as to how Pulverised Records came back from the grave again. And it so happened that during this time, a family member of mine told me that he will finance Pulverised Records if I wanted to resurrect it once more. So what the hell, I decided to try again especially when I already have Opposition Party's new album in hand, waiting to be released. From there onwards, there was no stopping the label and I should say that the label is doing much better than it was before.

Chiang: I had long heard about Pulverised Records but I wasn't aware about the status of the label of being dead or alive. I was pleasantly surprised when Roy contacted me and asking what my old band Raspatul was up to, and so I got back to him that the band was planning on doing a new album. No deal was set up with Roy as Raspatul was still in the early stages of writing the new album. Some months later, when our singer had passed away, I decided to check with Roy and see if he would be interested to work out a deal with me, so this is also actually the same time when Obliterhate was spawned. After some discussions and a few meetings later, Roy was wondering if I would be interested in helping him out with the label and before I could say anything, a Pulverised email account was created for me and here I am now, slogging my poor ass for Roy! Hahahaha! After working with the label for more than 2 year years, I started working with Pulverised full-time and it's been almost 3 years now. There is no other job I can ever imagine myself to be working, and this is indeed the dream job of a lifetime.

Pulverised is based in Singapore but a large number of the bands on the label are Swedish. How do you handle day-to-day activities with the bands? How do you discover new signings?

Chiang: We get a ton of emails and promo CDs everyday from bands requesting us to sign them but for us as a label, we will need to take into consideration on a lot of factors when we sign a band. It could depend on whether if the bands have been around for a long time and therefore much easier to promote and sell the albums. In some cases, we would also see if a particular band has some well-known names involved, maybe on the production side of things like mixing or mastering, etc. There are too many talented bands out there that write and produce very good music, but it has to be something special and unique that makes them stand out from the rest. The music industry is definitely one of the weirdest because it doesn't mean that bands who play and write fantastic music would necessarily mean that they will sell. We believe in a certain ‘X-factor' that the bands have in order to spark off our interest. We will always sign quality bands and bands that we totally enjoy on our part, but another important factor behind Pulverised would be to make sure that the bands are happy to be a part of the Pulverised roster. I think we have achieved that pretty well in the recent years, and we give the best for our bands in whatever they need. The bands that we sign are also friends with us more than anything else, and that makes it easier for us to work with them rather than a rigid business-minded relationship. However, the difficulties of being based in Singapore are also pretty obvious. Of course it is better to be based in Europe so that we can meet up with bands and distributors. As you know, sometimes it is easier to get things done face to face. Like now we trying to get tours for our bands and we have only managed a few so far. If we were based in the USA or Europe, things might have been different and we can easily talk to tour promoters or booking agents, etc.

What do you see as the future of record labels?

Yeo: I feel that the music industry in general is saturated these days. It is so difficult to stand out among the rest when there are thousands of new releases coming out in a month. The music industry is basically on a bullet train ride if you ask me; every piece of information is spread so fast and unreleased albums are already leaked out for downloading even months before the actual release date. Having such a source for the fans would mean that it is creating a form of promotion, but there still lies the unfound possibility that fans might not pick up and purchase the album when the CD is out. But I think that as long as labels still continue to belt out killer releases, there should be a good demand and perhaps a flourishing music industry in the near future.

How has your label adapted to changes in society, business, etc?

Chiang: The times have changed by miles for sure but with everyone moving on to better technology, there are so many things that gets done way faster because of the Internet. I'm sure that I speak for everyone when it comes to illegal downloading happening in the recent years, and this is something that all of us cannot avoid. As much as we would like to stay ‘true' and ‘underground,' it is a fact that CD sales have dropped tremendously and also hurt the entire industry, so we are no exception as well. There is also an overwhelming surge of bands appearing in the recent years and because of this, I feel that the attention span of the fans and the listeners are getting shorter. There could be thousands of new releases sprouting out each single month and there are only a few that turn heads and create a sort of little rumble, but after a while, the people will focus their attention elsewhere and look forward to other new albums. It is definitely harder to get attention these days but as long as we continue to sign killer bands and make more right choices, I am sure we would get the attention we duly deserve.

Any words of wisdom for those brave souls interested in running their own label?

Yeo: Unless they are willing to put in their full attention and focus into running the label on a professional level, it's going to be a tough road ahead. The industry now is so saturated these days, with hundreds of releases in a month everywhere. The current competition is indeed very strong, so try to come up with something unique that will make you stand out. Get maximum promotion and exposure for the bands, and in turn they will only do you more good than harm.