Exclusive Interviews Only Found Here at MetalCore!
I have known Paula Hogan for quite a few years now, from her days at Nuclear Blast and now where she is currently employed at, Candlelight Records. I asked her if she would be interested in being interviewed, thinking there was no way as she would be too busy, but lo and behold I sent her some questions and within days I got this interview back. So here it is:
MC: Tell me readers who you are and what your title is at Candlelight Music.
PH: Hi MC. My name is Paula Hogan and I am the General Manager for Candlelight Records in North America.
MC: What were you like as a young girl? Did you come from a big or small family? What area did you grow up in?
PH: I grew up in a city north of Boston. My immediate family is just four (mom, dad, younger brother; my parents both remarried and I am very close with my step father and mother) but my extended family is a good size and very supportive. I was a tomboy (still am) and was involved in a lot of sport when I was younger. I also was involved in arts/music – originally as part of a competitive marching band and then for my school music programs.
MC: Were you into music at a young age? If so, what sort of music did you listen to when you were young?
PH: Playing music (woodwind player all through my early schooling), I have always been a fan of music. My tastes in music have always been pretty expansive and change all the time. My mom didn’t listen to a lot of music when I was a kid; she is more a reader than a music fan per se. It’s perfect timing that I get this question today as I’m listening now to a compilation that I made for a friend over weekend that pretty much shows my “likes” and diversity in music. Blackfield to Agalloch; Dead Can Dance to Genghis Tron.
MC: When did you discover metal music in general? What were some of the bands that you got into and are you still into any of those bands today?
PH: I got in to metal via my friends in high school. Many of them were in bands themselves. Of course Slayer and Metallica were just getting started and were favorites of mine. I don’t follow either too much anymore though Slayer is often still a band I like to spin the older records (Metallica really not so much). I liked Bay Area thrash (Testament, Exodus) and the more style-driven bands like Queensryche. I loved most if not all the bands on Megaforce Records which was my favorite label at the time. I later also followed Peaceville Records with My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost, and Anathema - all are still favorite bands of mine.
MC: At what point did you start getting involved in the music business side of things? Did you have any jobs in the music industry before you started working for Candlelight Records?
PH: I started just like most others in college radio. That was a great learning experience and really my first introduction in to the business. I’ve worked for labels now geez over twenty years… Century Media Records, Mechanic (later sold and renamed Mayhem Records), and Nuclear Blast prior to Candlelight Records.
MC: Now that you have been involved in the music industry side of things, is it what you thought it was going to be? What do you feel was the hardest thing to overcome when you started doing music industry related jobs?
PH: Working in music was my dreamed job so it’s amazing to be able to be in it day-in-day-out. The work is as I expected for sure. I think the hardest thing, and something I still can struggle with, is not to take things personally. Most that work in the business put their heart and soul in to what they do which I think is one of the best things this business allows. We are after all selling an art form so creativity is at the core of what we do. Because of that though, you can loose perspective sometimes simply because you throw yourself so personally in to the work. I am very lucky to be surrounded by some great people which does make it easier even when on the rare occasion we have disagreements. I learn something everyday from the Candlelight team and I am really proud of the label.
MC: Do you feel that being a female in a mostly male dominated industry made it a bit harder for you?
PH: I’ve been asked that question before and for the most part I would say no. I think as long as you work hard then you will get the respect back. I never think of things as a man vs woman battle anyway so it is really something that never registers to me. Good work is good work regardless if you are wearing a skirt or pants (though in my case seldom a skirt, haha).
MC: Now how did you end up getting involved with Candlelight Records? Did you work for them before they moved down to Phila, PA. Is their main office still in Phila, PA. About how many employees work there now.
PH: I started with Candlelight right after Nuclear Blast moved out to Los Angeles. I moved to Philadelphia for Nuclear Blast and really liked the city and wanted to stay; it being so similar to Boston in history, etc. I didn’t know the owners of Candlelight prior to starting to work for them. It was via friends that I found out they were looking to open a US office and through a friendly introduction started talking with the two owners of the label. That was over 11 years ago now.. how time flies! When the label first started it was just me working from a loft apartment in Olde City Philadelphia. Now we have our own office about 45 minutes drive from downtown with a daily staff of three (not counting the dogs!) plus our PR and radio teams out of office. Our webmaster is locally based.
MC: I am sure you have seen the music industry change big time in say the last 10 years or so. What do you feel has been the biggest change and do you see more changes coming?
PH: Yes music has had a tough time in the last years as has most industries. I think the biggest challenge continues to be keeping ahead of trends as best as we can and just being honest with our customers. Technology will continue to evolve and the industry needs to find its way to embrace it. People will always love to discover new talent and will always want to buy music from their tried and true. It’s just making sure we as an industry can keep the dialogue open and honest with the customers.
MC: Do you feel in any way that Cds sales will continue to go downward and that more and more music will just be MP3’s and downloads and stuff like that?
PH: Personally I am a fan of the cd. I like being able to sit down with a record and spend time with it. I’m the same with books. But yes more and more music will surely be a digital asset and like I said earlier, we as an industry and as consumers ourselves need to find that happy medium. The great thing with the MP3 is that you can have what you want in a second. You can buy that new record in a matter of minutes at any hour of the day. I don’t think the physical will ever go away as there are fans like me that want the physical product. The increase in vinyl sales clearly shows that. Collectors will always be there.
MC: What are some of your favorite bands on the label at the moment and do you get to meet many of the bands that the label signs?
PH: I really love the new Orange Goblin album. I also really like the new Corrosion of Conformity and Lord Mantis records. The new Fear Factory and Ihsahn albums are amazing and I can’t wait for fans of both to hear them. Daylight Dies are recording now for a record in the fall and Woe are writing now for an album early winter. I have met all those bands – lived/toured together with some of them. Some I don’t get to meet, like Sigh, but I enjoy emailing with them and am starting to get to know the guys in Vision of Disorder who are finishing up their new record right now. We have a good roster and its great working with all of them… I’m lucky that way.
MC: Is all the Candlelight releases still in print? Does the label put on any vinyl or is more of less Cds and digital downloads and stuff?
PH: Not all our titles are still in print as most labels delete titles over the years. Our distribution partner in the UK does most of our vinyl titles via their imprint Back on Black. In the US we have only done 3 records on domestic vinyl – Abigail Williams, Fear Factory (Mechanize and we will have vinyl for the new album The Industrialist too), and Corrosion of Conformity. Many of the bands do see vinyl pressings but they are sorted by our partner.
MC: Do you get to go out and see many shows and what do you think of the Phila music scene in general?
PH: I am admittedly very much the hermit so I’m not out at shows a whole lot to be honest. Steve in our office is much more the club go’er. When our artists are in town I am usually at most of those performances. I do have to travel and sometimes can miss shows when I’m away. I missed the local performance of Corrosion of Conformity in March because I was in England. I will miss the Philly Fear Factory show because I’ll be in Los Angeles but will catch the show when I come back by driving to either New York City or Baltimore.
MC: Have you ever had a chance to go to the overseas office and if not would you like to go there one day?
PH: Yes I am there usually once a year. We have the main Candlelight office in London but distribution is in Oxon so I take the train out there to visit as least for one or two days when I’m over there.
MC: What is a typical day like for you at work?
PH: Really depends on the day…. One thing that is guaranteed is it is always a long day.
MC: What are some things you like to do to relax and when you are away from doing label related stuff?
PH: I love spending as much time as I can with my pets. I help a lot of local animal rescues. I have 6 pets of my own, all rescues, and occasionally have a foster that comes to stay. I work on my house and my property a lot. I live in a rural area and have an old house that is a true labor of love. I bake a lot for friends as well for fundraising for my animal rescue activities and recently started to help a local antique and craft shop in town. For years I have been training in martial arts; currently I am a 2nd Gup in Taekwondo. I have also trained in hapkido and aikido styles. Hopefully I’ll be promoted to 1st degree black belt in the next 12 months which would be a great accomplishment.
MC: Does the label get a ton of bands sending you stuff to try and get signed? When you listen to a new band what do you listen for?
PH: Yes we get quite a lot of demos mailed in as well email submissions to our website, MySpace and Facebook. The entire label usually is involved when it comes to new signings. There is a team of 4 overseas plus two of us here in the US office that go back and forth with conversations on any sizeable new signing for the label.
MC: Plug any websites the label has and on the label website do you sell stuff from other labels and stuff?
PH: We have two main websites – official label sites for the US and the UK. We have different artists for each as well those bands we work with around the world. For our US webstore we right now primarily only sell Candlelight artists but that will be inclusive of earlier titles that we may be able to purchase to make available for our customers. We have a lot of vinyl there via our partner label and we try to update that as often as we can.
We also have US and UK Facebook and MySpace pages. And we launched the US twitter about 8 months ago. It is still small but growing.
MC: What has been say the 5 biggest selling artists on the label so far?
PH: Our biggest sellers are Fear Factory, the original Opeth trilogy, of course all the Emperor titles, Burzum, Corrosion of Conformity.
MC: What are some of the bands that are tickling your fancy right now?
PH: A girl has to keep some secrets!
MC: Is there any places you would like to visit one day? What is the best concert or band that you ever saw live? Is there any bands that you would like to see live that you have not yet?
PH: Oh there are so many places I would like to visit. I’ve love to visit Brazil, Peru, Greece, Australia. I’ve been lucky to see so many concerts. Touring with Emperor (twice!) is still a highlight for me personally. I have attended only one major European festival – Dynamo years ago. I was working for Nuclear Blast at the time and it was great to see Meshuggah, SOD and others on the big stage. Last year I saw Portishead in New York City and it was amazing. I just bought tickets to see Dead Can Dance in Philly in August and I’m really looking forward to that concert.
MC: When Candlelight signs a band, do they pretty much have full control of their music and lyrics, in other words, does the label ever tell a band “no you can’t put those lyrics in a song” or try to censor them in any way?
PH: Candlelight gives the artists 100% creative control.
MC: What is your opinion on sites like My Space, Facebook and Twitter, etc?
PH: I think they are all great communicators. They are great for getting the word out about anything we are doing as a label and for bands. We utilize social networking as much as we can.
MC: Paula, many thanks for the interview. Any last words to wrap this up?
PH: Thanks for the opportunity Chris. We have been friends for years and it’s great to see Metalcore still going. You have been a big supporter of the label (and huge Havok fan!) and I just want to thank you for your support.