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Metal War Productions
Metal War Productions is a cool new record/distro company coming out of Philadelphia. I have been friends with Karen forever so naturally I thought I interview was in order.
CF: Have you always lived in the Philadelphia area? Do you like living in Philadelphia? What sort of kid were you growing up?
Karen: It's ok living in Philadelphia. I can't really compare it to living anywhere else since this is the only place I've ever lived. I was a kid who absolutely hated school, mainly because I went to a predominantly black public school in the city & being a white female into METAL it wasn't a very good experience. As a kid I was very into anything horror oriented. The Excorcist was the very first movie I ever saw, I don't remember the first time I saw it but that's what my mom tells me. I was really into movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Evil Dead, Halloween, The Omen, Salem's Lot, The Amityville Horror, The Thing, The Howling, Etc. I also got into metal at a very early age & living with an older sister who had many yuppie friends I was pretty much an outcast. Everyone would say that I was a little satanist just because I didn't follow in their little click. I don't want to give the wrong impression that I was some kind of an outcast because I had many friends of my own growing up it was just my sister & her flock of sheep who had a problem with the way I was. However my Mom couldn't have been more supportive being the horror movie fan herself.
CF: Do you have any brothers or sisters? How did you discover metal music?
Karen: I have one older sister who is 28 years old and married with four children. I first discovered Metal on my own when I was believe it or not about 5 - 6 years old in '83. I was watching the old show "Solid Gold" with my sister and Quiet Riot performed that night & I thought they ruled. Then that lead on to bands like Twisted Sister, Motley Crue, Ratt, Ozzy, Iron Maiden etc. After that I was just searching for other bands that were heavier. When I was around 8 years old in '85 -'86 I remember always seeing these three long haired guys that lived on my street who were about 17 years old. They were always wearing chains, denim vests with patches & pins all over them, Camoflage, leather jackets, the old 80's baseball jerseys, And they were listening to stuff like Venom, Voi Vod, Kreator, D.R.I., Celtic Frost, Slayer, Possessed, Metallica, Sodom, Destruction etc. They thought it was cool that I was only 8 years old and took such interest in what they were listening to. So they would hang out and tell me all about the underground bands that were out at that time. I basically learned all of my early underground Metal roots from them.
CF: What were some early bands that you got into? Did you get to see many concerts when you were young?
Karen: In the early 80's I liked a lot of Twisted Sister, Dio, Ratt & I absolutely loved Ozzy! In the mid & late 80's I was more into stuff like Nuclear Assault, Slayer, Metal Church, Metallica, Dark Angel, Over Kill etc. And in the very early 90's I was mainly listening to Morbid Angel, Carcass, Napalm Death, Slayer, Death, bands like that. As far as getting to see many concerts when I was young, in the 80's the big place for Metal shows in my area was "The Empire Rock Club" they had everyone play there from Slayer, Kreator & Voi Vod, Blood Feast, Death & Dark Angel, Nuclear Assault, Death Angel, Coroner, Hallow's Eve & At War, I swore when I was old enough I was gonna go there for my first Metal show. But they closed in 1990 when I was only 12 so that sucked! CF: Who was your favorite band back in the day and are they still one of your favorites now? Karen: Well I would have to say one of my earlier favorite bands would have to be Ozzy Ozbourne just because that was the very first band that I all out really got into. And I'll always like earlier Ozzy mainly because it reminds me of when I was younger. But I pretty much still like every band that I was ever into back then I never went through any phases with Metal because to me Metal is not a phase by anymeans.
CF: I know you worked at Nuclear Blast when they opened a US office here in Philadelphia. What was it like working there? How did you get the job and had you worked for any other labels before them?
Karen: Oh Man! Nuclear Blast, ha. Before I answer this question any further I just want it to be known that I refer to the Nuclear Blast Philadelphia office only! And not to Nuclear Blast CA or Germany. As an owner of a record label myself I do respect Marcus of Nuclear Blast Germany for all of his accomplishments, After all he did sign Destruction & is a self made millionaire working for Metal. I worked for Nuclear Blast Phila. in '98 to 2000, it wasn't anything like I thought it would be. I wasn't really expecting too much being as though I personally wasn't into many Nuclear Blast bands at all however I thought it would be a cool experience working for Metal in general since we dealt with many other labels' titles as well. Unfortunately right before the office closed in 2000 many of the people who worked there weren't even into Metal & the ones who claimed to really be into metal their metal roots stemmed back to about 1997. Not that there is anything wrong with that but these people acted like they knew everything there is to know and they didn't. And working with people like that every day can be very nerve racking. I was also getting sick of working for a Metal label where I was constantly getting bashed for listening to bands like Bathory, Dark Throne, Possessed and anything raw. The music of choice in that office ranged from The Gathering to Bongzilla & Dr. Dre. I really couldn't take it anymore. When Destruction came over for their U.S. tour most of the people there had never heard of them before and they were treated so poorly it made me sick. For the first few weeks of the tour they didn't even have a tour bus, I had to get my husband & brother-in-law to drive them around in minivans because the Phila. office didn't even get a driver for them. It was so embarrassing to meet Destruction under those circumstances. It was only a matter of time til I quit. It made me embarrassed to say I even worked there. How I got the job? Well I was told by the label manager about a year and a half after he hired me that he hired me beacause and I quote "he thought I was 'Hot' and I was a 'chick' who knew a lot about metal". That right there should tell you what a joke it was to work there.
CF: Why did you leave the label? Were you offered a chance to go out to the West Coast at all?
Karen: I didn't leave the label. I thought about quitting many times but I made pretty good money & I just got married & had a house with bills etc. so I couldn't quit just like that. However by the time new management took over it only had gotten worse. Spencer "my associate" & I never got along with the new management. The Philadelphia office was also very much in debt with the German office mainly due to careless overspending. Germany threatened to close the Philadelphia office for good and I couldn't agree with them more. At that time it had become nothing but a joke. The new management would say things like they didn't like having people who are truly into metal working for the label anymore because they might steal they said "It's like giving an achoholic a job in a bar". Is that stupid or what? Instead they wanted to keep the college kids who had no idea about metal. So when it came time to lay people off due to lake of money I was the first to go then Spencer. Spencer & I couldn't have been more happy to finally get out of there and to be relieved of the stress that came with the territory. However I must say that wasn't a very smart business move on their behalf being as though Spencer & I were the wholesale dept. we put the CD's in the stores in the U.S. and if you're in debt and fear that your going to be shut down the last thing you want to do is get rid of your wholesale dept. But I guess Spencer & myself standing up for what is right in Metal and not kissing their ass like a lot of the other kiddies that was a good enough reason. So two months after we were gone the Philadelphia office folded for good.
CF: How did you come up with the name Metal War Productions. So far you have one cd out, a Bloodstorm cd. How much did it cost you to put it out? What are some other releases that will be coming out?
Karen: We came up with the name Metal War because the only reason we continue to run a record label is to fight the war on metal basically to show these Marilyn Manson kids what real metal is. With our distribution and label the true metal fans can get great underground metal. We're not like a lot of other labels that will carry some good underground titles but also carry a lot of Cradle of Filth & Korn just to make a profit. Metal War is about nothing less than the true underground! We released the newest BLOOD STORM CD and we also released the BLOOD STORM video trilogy and the American Underground Onslaught Vol. 1 which is a comp. video with interviews & live footage from such bands as Nun Slaughter, Necrovore, ABSU, Blood Storm, The Chasm, Sadistic Intent, Abazagorath, Black Witchery, Thornspawn & a lot more. Right now we are considering quite a few differnt things to release. There are a lot of really killer bands out there!
CF: If you could sign any 5 bands who would they be and why.
Karen: Ok just in a little or should I say a big fantasy of who I would like to sign ha ha ha. Venom, The original Celtic Frost or Hellhammer, Bathory, Possessed, Dark Throne, I could go on forever. CF: Where do you see the underground scene headed? What do you think could make it better? Do you like many of the new bands or are you more into the older bands? Karen: The underground scene seems to be doing a hell of a lot better nowadays as opposed to just three years ago. I think what really could make it better would be if bands in general would just stop worrying what everyone else's band is doing. And stop being jealous when the really good bands out there get an opportunity and instead support one another. That was the way it used to be in the 80's and look at how strong Metal was back then. There was more of a unity and hopefully we will have that again someday. I like a good mixture of newer & older bands. You got the great newer bands out there like Desaster, Pentacle, Aura Noir, Black Witchery, Destroyer 666, ABSU and so many more. But then you have all of those great older bands that I have been mentioning throughout the interview etc.
CF: What are some of the funniest things you have ever seen at concerts you have been at and also the weirdest things.
Karen: I wouldn't say it was the weirdest thing it was kinda messed up actually. It was in '96 when I saw Slayer at the Trocadero someone threw a big work boot at Tom Araya on stage and hit him right in the mouth. He was pissed!
CF: Is it tough running a mail-order business with so many other mail order companies?
Karen: It's kinda tough I wouldn't recommend it to just anyone. The good thing is my business partner and I do have experience and I could see how someone who didn't have that much experience or any experience at all would have problems. But I think we are doing just fine mainly because the people who come to our site know that we are truly fans of the music ourselves and many times I have people tell me that they would rather get their stuff from us instead of one of those companies that are out there selling the Kid Rock stuff just to make a buck.
CF: You have a partner my friend Spencer. Tell us a bit about him and what he does are far as the label/mail order goes?
Karen: Well Spencer and I both do a bit of everything it's pretty much equal. But there are just some things that he might want to take care of himself one day and vice versa. He is also one of the biggest Metal Tyrants I've ever met in my life! And it's a pleasure to run a label with someone who is truly into the cause!!!
CF: You are married to Chris Gamble (Bloodstorm). How is married life? How come you didn't marry Eddie Ruiz ha ha?
Karen: Married life rules! Chris just got off of tour for a month with Enthroned and that can be a little hard on a marriage but in the long run I realize him going on tour is only beneficial in the end. Hell when I first started dating him he just got back from touring Europe with ABSU for the second time and I had only been dating him for a week before he left again to tour Mexico. I just try to support him in everything that he does and he does the same for me. How come I didn't marry your boyfriend Eddie you ask, I know how deeply you feel about him I couldn't do that to you. He's all yours!
CF: How big do you think your label can get? If offered a job would you work for a big indie metal label?
Karen: I'll wait and see how big my label will get, I'm not into it though for how big it can get I just want to fight for the cause of metal any way I c an and if that means doing Metal War so be it. I don't think I could ever work for another label after running my own the way I think a Metal label should be run. And there is nothing like being your own boss.
CF: Any last words. Plug your website and thanks for the interview.
Karen: Thank You Chris for the interview I really appreciate the support. And thanks to all the true Metal Warriors out there for keeping Metal alive!!! WWW.METALWARPROD.COM Metal War Productions P.O. Box 5996 Philadelphia, PA. 19137 U.S.A. Phone / Fax; (215)533-6023