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Diabolical Conquest Records

Kunal Choksi runs a webzine and a small record label and after checking out some of the bands on his label I thought an interview with the man was in order so I emailed him some questions and here is what he said to them:

MC: Tell the readers who you are and a bit about yourself?

KC: Hey there! I am Kunal Choksi. I live in Mumbai, India and mingle with Bollywood stars. Well, the last bit is not entirely true. More? Well okay, Diabolical Conquest webzine happens to be run by me and since last year also a record label and webstore that was formed under the same name.

MC: Were you always into music, even at a young age? What were some of the bands and music you were into?

KC: Eye-witnesses said I was born with a head full of long hair, including side locks. That says it all. When I was little my tiny ass used to move to some cool techno/trance and loved female vocals but all that changed (not really) after Metallica's 'Master of Puppets' came to be heard. After that I dug deeper and deeper for heavier and more challenging forms of music. At my young age there were mostly tapes. During that era, I enjoyed bands like Death, Sepultura, Obituary, Kreator, Morbid Angel, Immolation, Cannibal Corpse, My Dying Bride, Napalm Death, etc. The standard fare really except that we also got some obscure stuff on tapes like Torchure, Disastrous Murmur, etc. God, I don't even remember. It has been over a decade since I graduated from tapes.

MC: Are there many places to buy music where you are from?

KC: There are a couple of stores but you hardly get any extreme metal stuff there. You would be lucky to find a few rare imports from labels like Century Media but they are not always available and are actually quite expensive. Most of the tuned-in metalheads here order online. Now they have the option to order from our store.

MC: How did the idea to start a label come up with and are you the only one at the label or do you have a couple other people help you out?

KC: The intention was to hook up the Indian peasants with some cool ego-boosting music which as wasn't previously possible except through international contacts, sycophancy towards those who could order online using credit cards, and delusional fantasizing. With over five years of running a webzine and coming across several deserving bands that were unsigned or signed to labels that didn't do them justice, the urge to do something about it was felt as well, and crying or sulking wasn't as effective an option.

The big leap was taken alone but when I turned around, there were the loyal DC staff writers and my best friend standing behind me. Some radical experiments were carried out such has having a physical base in Europe with the help of my UK writer Ewan Gibb but it didn't work out too well. Anyway experience always teaches you new things and you have to be grateful for that. Then my best friend Piraan, also a metalhead from my city who later moved to New York, US for work, offered to assist me from there and I reluctantly let him. That was probably the best thing that happened to the label. Since then the DC releases are pressed in US itself which ensures world class quality. US post is undoubtedly better than Indian post; you can sleep relatively peacefully at night too provided dogs are not barking and mosquitoes are not biting. Co-operation with other labels, many of which are based in the same country, becomes easier too. Piraan has also brought in a lot of ideas and improvements and it is thanks to him that we are able to have an actual physical distro in US. You know as the saying goes, two (metal)heads are better than one.

MC: How long has the label been around and what was your 1st release?

KC: The label has yet to cut its first birthday cake. If a candle were to be put on it, it would be 3/4 of its original length. The first release was of the Australian doomy death metal band THE DEAD. In 2009, they had hurriedly released the album 'Ritual Executions' which was limited only to a hundred copies and were meant for a local show. So only those who attended the show and a few press guys who were sent a copy for review were lucky enough to hear it. I was one of them. Seeing that the album deserved to be heard by more people, the band was contacted and they readily agreed to the offer. 'Ritual Executions' was re-mixed and re-mastered and with a modified artwork got released in India in 2010 with a stomach full of butterflies. The initial response was skeptical, because the music was something the Indian audiences weren't accustomed to and people expected something more conventional, but the butterflies flew out or were digested once good reviews started pouring in and people widened their perspective and treated the album with a more open mind.

MC: How many releases would you like to put out per year and how big would you like to see the label get?

KC: If the label signs more bands and has good enough material to release, around one release per quarter would be good enough. A gap between releases is preferred because you can manage things properly, arrange your finances and also promote the release. As big a label can get without compromising on the quality and integrity. The bigger the label gets, the better it becomes for the band signed to it because then they can expect better deals, distribution, promotion and shows. Then again, we are talking about an underground extreme metal label so even a big label may not be big enough for one to make it into a full time thing.

MC: How do you come about signing bands? Do you just sign them for one release at a time and how do you go about signing bands?

KC: First of all, we need to love that band's music. Second, the band has to be unsigned. We are not into stealing bands from other labels by offering them better deals. If a signed band approaches us directly, then we would consider but not otherwise. If this is clear then we simply contact the band and ask them whether they would be interested in getting signed to our label. After a bit of negotiations, professional contracts are prepared and signed before an official announcement is made. We are not restricting the creative freedom of our bands and binding and pressurizing them with multiple album deals. We are offering them good deals and putting genuine effort into promoting them. If our bands are happy with our work as a label, they will stick to us. If down the line they wish to have some security and advance for recording and artwork, we could look into that.

MC: How did you come up with the name for the label and was starting the label harder or easier than you thought now looking back?

KC: I first used the name ‘Diabolical Conquest’ for the forum as a tribute to the Incantation album of the same name which happened to be the first title that I had ordered from outside the country. Back then in India that was unimaginable and it opened up endless possibilities for me. It meant that an Indian metalhead too could be somewhat at par with American/European metalheads in terms of music. So obviously it was special and it had a good metal-sounding ring to it. After the forum was named after it, the same name was used for the webzine that followed a couple of years later in 2005, and when a label was to be formed, it was a no-brainer as to which name to use.
Looking back, it was definitely harder than I thought though I wasn't fully sure of what to expect. I was just going with the flow, trying out some new things along the way. I assumed that people would be honest, keep their word, and other things which didn't happen. I was naive and somehow felt people would share my passion for quality and enthusiasm for good music. Indian buyers, at least initially, turned out to be too narrow-minded for my releases and too fussy for the titles in the distro. I don't blame them for it. I made some optimistic sales predictions based on which I offered generous deals to my bands. Then there were quite a few things we did that didn't work out but back then I didn't know any better and was forced to learn from my mistakes. But I didn't have anything to complain about where our bands were concerned. They were co-operative and supportive all along and I am very thankful to them for trusting and believing in me.

MC: How do you go about promoting your releases? With so many labels and bands does it get difficult at times?

KC: There is no fixed strategy. The bands on our label are treated as if they are our very own and we are a part of them. Well aware of having signed small and lesser known bands, an inward promise was made to make them better known no matter what. It is not easy to get reviews these days and it is probably due to our webzine's five-plus years of existence and credibility that the label is getting more attention and consideration than other labels and bands. But that doesn't make our releases immune from bad reviews. Also, many press guys are finding it difficult to digest the diversity of our releases.

MC: Do you use sites like Blabbermouth, My Space, etc to get the word out?

KC: Blabbermouth is used occasionally and so far it has been effective only to a limited extent but that doesn't mean I have given up on it. MySpace, on the other hand, I have given up on due to its terrible new interface haha. Facebook is proving to be a good tool for promotion though your privacy and space is completely intruded upon.

MC: About how much time in a given week is spent doing label related stuff?

KC: The figure is scandalous. Fortunately, I am self-employed so I don't have to feel bad about doing some work other than what I am getting paid to do. I answer emails and reply to text messages from early in the morning to late at night, sometimes if need be even while sitting on the throne in the middle of the night.

MC: Do you get some bad bands sending you stuff hoping to get signed?

KC: Sure. It is inevitable and they can’t be blamed. So far an official mailing address hasn’t been provided but soon a US address PO will be announced where bands could send in their stuff for consideration.
MC: Where do you see the underground scene in say 3 years?

KC: In the underground. Or more likely on Facebook.

MC: Do you see the day when vinyl and CDs are gone and everything is just download stuff? I hope not.

KC: I hope not too, for the artwork, presentation and sometimes lyrics are part of the charm of underground music. Downloading stuff is getting tiresome and the feel and thrill just isn’t there. Vinyls and tapes are making a comeback and it seems like vinyls are here to stay for a while for reasons of having the best sound and artwork quality which would appeal to the buyers, collectors and die-hard fans out there. It is said that CDs will be the new vinyls and it has some truth in it; it is the next best thing.

MC: Are fanzines and webzines still an important part of the underground?

KC: Of course. With almost all the albums being available for free download - officially or by getting illegally leaked - people don't know what is good and what to go for. They can't download everything and even if they come close to doing that, they can't possibly hear them all in one lifetime. In India, cheap and greedy people take rebirths. So anyway, metalheads would like to check out credible zines and other information sources for the latest news, releases and recommendations. There is also no other place for interviews of your favourite bands; there are a few labels doing that but the interview quality and integrity becomes questionable and the question format may be modified to best suit the label and band. In an increasingly overcrowded metal market, visibility in the press will have its importance.

MC: What is your favorite kind of music and when you sign a band or listen to a band what are you looking for?

KC: Death Metal is the favourite style but just because a band plays in that style doesn't mean they will get signed. Originality is preferred and if that is not possible then something that is very solid. Basically music that is original or refreshing, has a good feel and is emotive in some way stands a good chance. It becomes difficult when you come across something that is good but perhaps not just as good enough; at such times you are prone to trying too hard to like their music and your objectivity may get affected.

MC: If a band were to send you some stuff for a possible deal, what should they send and what should they not send to you?

KC: If they are sending stuff, they should provide sufficient information about themselves and their plans for the future. If they have artworks done for their material, they should send that too, for that gives you an idea of their image. They could avoid sending overly blasphemous or gory artworks. If your music is good, you don't need shock value.

MC: Where do you get your stuff pressed and do you use the same place all the time? Do any of the bands on the label have any restraints so to speak?

KC: I get my stuff pressed from a masseur. Sorry, after our first release which was pressed in India, Piraan looked out for manufacturers in US and we got our second release, Preludium's 'Impending Hostility' CD pressed in US itself. It turned out great and we are likely to press stuff at that place in future. There are no restraints for our bands. Their preferences are supported and they are encouraged to go for the best means.

MC: What are some hobbies and things you like to do when not working on the label?

KC: When my daily duties are done (which takes up most of my time), I like to chill out by watching a movie or listening to music, sometimes writing about it too which in a way becomes my work again – webzine related. Earlier I used to read a bit but realized it can get too demanding on my time and I am not sure whether I would want to involve myself too deeply with someone else’s opinion or fictional story. Nowadays if I have to read, more often than not it is about spirituality, universal truths, the ideal lives of saints and enlightened people – something that helps you be less of an asshole. As far as possible I try to head out as I don’t like staying cooped up at home for long. I like being around pleasant people and making them happy or laugh and I try doing that without making a fool out of myself or boring them to tears. I like playing sports too.

MC: What are some of your personal favorite bands?

KC: Rarely does all the material by a band appeal to me but nonetheless these could be considered as my favourites - Amorphis (early albums), Incantation, Immolation, Carnage (first pressing), Gorguts, Autopsy, Adramelech, Morbid Angel, Vomitory, The Dead, Deranged, Disembowelment, (early) My Dying Bride, (early) Paradise Lost, (early) Katatonia, (early) Aeternus, Summoning, The Bleeding Light, etc.

MC: Do you ever set up booths at some of these big fests and if you do what is that like?

KC: Not at big fests because the label deals with underground music but at small-ish extreme metal fests, yes I have, a few times. It feels awkward the first time or two and well it also depends on the kind of people that comes up to the booths. It sucks when they are completely clueless about the bands and ask questions like "Are these Indian bands?" but it is great when you meet someone who is familiar with the music and you could have an enthusiastic discussion about it. The real fun lies in sharing the good music with others and introducing more people to it.

MC: Do you trade with other labels and stuff and is your stuff for sale in the US at all?

KC: Yes, we trade selectively and our stuff is for sale in US through our very own distro which based in New York, US which is managed by Piraan. He reeks of awesomeness.

MC: If somebody was thinking about starting up a record label what advice would you give them?

KC: Our label is too small and inexperienced to offer advice to others.

MC: What are some new releases we are going to see in 2011?

KC: You are going to get to see new full length albums by The Dead, Drug Honkey and Ingurgitating Oblivion. Perhaps a LP of our first release too.

MC: How long do you see the label being around?

KC: Quite a few bands are signed to our label and it becomes our responsibility to support them. For that reason, we hope and wish that the label activities continue for many years to come and we are able to do some good for our bands and put out quality music.

MC: Please post any of the url's to any of your label related websites.

KC: Oh wow, you are actually asking for me to spam? Sure thing, I will provide you with more links than your mouse can click.

DC webzine: www.diabolicalconquest.com / www.dcwebzine.com
DC records: www.diabolicalconquest.com/label.htm
DC store: www.diabolicalconquest.com/store.htm
DC webzine on Facebook: www.facebook.com/dcwebzine
DC records on Facebook: www.facebook.com/diabolicalconquestrecords
DC forum: www.diabolicalconquest.com/forum

And of course, here are urls of our bands –
The Dead: www.facebook.com/lordofthelivingdead / www.myspace.com/lordofthelivingdead
Preludium: http://preludium.metal.pl/ / http://www.myspace.com/preludiumband
Drug Honkey: http://www.myspace.com/drughonkey
Ingurgitating Oblivion: http://www.ingurgitating-oblivion.de/ /

Don’t look at me, you asked for it.

MC: I am out of questions. Horns up for the interview, any last words?

KC: What? Aw man, I was just getting warmed up. I don’t know what you saw in us that made you want to interview us, but thanks a ton for this great interview man! It was an absolute pleasure doing it. I am going to go hide now. Check out our bands! They are the stars!