Label Spotlight: Relapse Records

posted September 1, 2006

by Corinne

Relapse RecordsRelapse President, Matt Jacobson

When and why did you start your label?

Relapse started in August of 1990 and it began as a hobby, born out of my interest and passion for music. I wanted to be involved in music any way I could. I didn’t have the patience to learn how to play bass or guitar and I tried singing but wasn’t good at it…my friend and I did a fanzine, I printed shirts and made stickers for bands, I tried to get a job at a record store or radio station but couldn’t…I just wanted to be involved with music anyway possible. Putting out records seemed like the next step.

Relapse Records has become the go-to record label for independent metal bands. Why do bands and fans trust Relapse so much?

I think because they see what we do, they see our history and they know we put out the music that we love. Many of our releases over the years have been left of center or difficult or just plain weird. Some labels sign bands and release records because the style the band plays is trendy or popular and because they think they can sell a lot. Which is fine…but I think our approach has always been more fan based then purely business based. We work hard to try and take the records we release and reach as many fans as possible…no matter how out there the record may be.

What was your first release?

Our first release was a 7” 45 record of a local Colorado band called Velcro Overdose and our first CD release was Suffocation’s Human Waste.

How did Relapse finance it?

The first few 7” release came to be because of my day job. At the time I had just finished high school and I was working at a print shop…I saved up the $500 I needed to press the first 7” and I printed the covers with the help of co-workers using paper I had gotten for free.

What is your most recent release?

Most recent releases…wow we have a number including: Fuck the Facts new album, a comedy record by Brian Posehn, a Dillinger Escape Plan DVD, plus soon new records from Suffocation and Jucifer! We also have records in the works from some great new Relapse bands like Rwake, Minsk, Coldworker and Antigama!

How do you feel about sharing music on the Internet?

I think that it is a great way for people to find new music they love! I am all for it just like tape trading was really important to the underground music scene before MP3’s. There is a bit of a risk though…if the younger generations are satisfied only having the shared files rather then buying the CD, LP or paying for a download. At the end of the day, if we can’t sell the music to fans, then we can’t pay to have the music recorded or to market it and that would be bad. I hope that people will always want to support the artist and labels that put out the music and that they will always buy the music that they like!

Can you offer any words of wisdom for those music fans who are interested in starting their own record label?

I think that there are many cool new ways a new label can get to word out about their bands but it also may be really tough to stand out and get attention in the crowded world of and the rest of the internet. But, if you are doing it because you love it and you are not counting on it to pay the rent (at least early on) they you have nothing to lose…if you want to have fun and doing something that you are passionate about…go for it! When I first started Relapse there were plenty of people that laughed at me and or thought I was crazy…they didn’t think I had a chance to really do it…I am glad I didn’t listen to them!

What has been your most successful release?

Mastodon’s Leviathan album…I would say off the top of my head…followed by Dillinger Escape Plan and Amorphis.

What is the best way and the worst way to get a label's attention?

The best way is to play music that is interesting and doing something a little fresh….sounding like the 46352 copy of Suffocation won’t get you to far. Once the music part is together do things like play shows in your area and region and work towards setting up and doing a tour. Set up a website and MySpace page and get the word out. I think a band that is together, works hard and can show that they have the motivation and ability to get things going says a lot. Also, when it comes to sending a demo or record to labels to check out…do yourself a favor…make it look nice, put it in a unusual package, make it stand out and for gods sake: MAKE SURE you label the CD with the band name and contact info.! You’d be surprised how many people send a normal CD-R with no writing on it…once it is out of the package or case you don’t know what it is.

Regardless of genre, what do you look for in the artists and bands you sign?

Something fresh, different, extreme, interesting, and or the best at what they do!

The label seems to focus on continually improving and getting larger moving closer to Philadelphia, setting up a retail shop, international distribution, the Relapse Contamination Festival. Relapse is more than just a record label these days. How do you feel about it growing so many arms, so to speak?

Well, I like it and I am proud that we have been able to do more then just release CDs. It is a lot to have going on but I think it is great and hopefully people that like our records check out the great selection in our mail order and on or stop by the Relapse store when they are on the East Coast (we are only 2 hours from NY and not much further from Baltimore and Washington DC) . It all fits with our goal…which is to reach as many people as possible with the music!

What upcoming releases can we expect from Relapse Records?

We have a limited edition Mastodon 7” and vinyl version of the new album Blood Mountain, we have new records from: Suffocation, Jucifer, Regurgitate, Coldworker, Death Breath (featuring members of Entombed/the Hellicopters/Repulsion/Grave) and The End plus reissues from: Incantation, Brutal Truth, Warpig (great 70’s rock from Canada), and Today is the Day. Lots of great stuff!

Anything else you would like to add?

I’d like to thank you and your readers for the interest and the support! Check out for all kinds of info on our bands and releases and also check out the new Relapse channel for music videos on! Thanks!