Holy Roar Records
Holy Roar records have been at the forefront of the recent increase in activity within the UK hardcore scene. Many different bands past and present have passed through the ranks, some carrying on to bigger things and unfortunately some calling it a day. I went and talked to Alex Fitzpatrick, owner of Holy Roar and guitarist in Pariso, about the history of the label, difficulties he has encountered and odd formats among other things.
How long has Holy Roar been going?
Alex: Holy Roar started in January 2006 as a rough idea. We did three releases in tandem in August and September 2006, they were Phoenix Bodies, Rolo Tomassi and a split 12” between Kayo Dot and Bloody Panda. But the idea for Holy Roar was kind of alive before that when I lived in Birmingham for Uni and we did a few small minor releases there, and that kind of sowed the seed.
So you started Holy Roar on your own?
Alex: It was me and Elen Godwin who co-founded the label and it was just us two doing it. She’s still involved in an advisory basis but I’d say it is just me doing it now.
How difficult has it been running the label? Have you encountered any difficulties or has it been plain sailing?
Alex: I’d say has there been any plain sailing amongst the difficulty?! I don’t know, there’s been some major things, like we had a manufacturing company go into liquidation with 2000 CDs of ours which was a couple of grand down the drain. That was the one major stumbling block I’ve faced. There have been obvious things like bands splitting up just before delivering the album they should have. There’s also when you’re lining up a band and they end up getting taken by a much bigger label just before they work with you, that’s frustrating, I’d consider that a stumbling block. I’d be interested to see where we would be now if we’d released the Fuck Buttons debut album, I think we’d be a slightly different label had that happened.
It’s all a gradual organic process really, lots of building and expansion. If you run a business you have to take the rough with the smooth, it’s a cliché but it’s true. Planning definitely helps, but you can’t pre-empt all of the problems that you will face as a label owner.
How do you go about working with bands, do you release a record at a time or do you line them up for a contract? Do bands come to you or do you put the offer on the table for them to accept? For example you put out the Hang The Bastard 12” [Hellfire Reign] but they put out their most recent record on TDON, would you like to have worked with them more?
Alex: I would absolutely love to be putting out the stuff that band make, in that instance I think the impression that I get is that they signed with a management company and they advised them to try different labels. I wouldn’t say TDON is a vastly bigger label than Holy Roar, they do more all dayers and sell more merch, but in terms of the reach of their records I don’t think there is any difference. We’ve done it in the past where we’ve gone “we’d really like to be the label you release on” but we’ve never tied anyone in with a contract or anything like that. I just think it’s a dick move for a label our size. If I said “this is the plan, I can offer £5000 for advertising”, then I would expect that to be repaid in terms of staying with us, or putting up some contractual obligations, but we can’t offer that within our financial structure with the size we are. I always like to build it upon trust and working with friends then you can mutually grow.
“I don’t like the divisions. I think its stupid being involved in these little tribes, its bollocks and it infuriates me. It’s a counterproductive activity. With bands like Brutality Will Prevail selling out the Camden Underworld and bands like Veils and Goodtime Boys going to Europe it’s great to see that these bands can step up and they don’t have to constantly be the support act.”
So ideally you’d run the label based on a personal level, or is it impossible to do that being a business?
Alex: It’s a bit of both really, it was all friends at the start but it’s been a mixture. It’s impossible for me to go and see and make friends with every band who i think are awesome. A recent example is Nibiru from Dublin, I really like them, but I can’t just go to Dublin to hang out with them you know? It has to be run with a business structure to keep being a realistic operation.
What do you think of the UK scene at the moment?
Alex: I think it’s great. It’s great to see that bands such as Goodtime Boys can go to Europe and tour and hold their own out there. It’s the same with more ‘hardcore’ hardcore for want of a better name, I don’t like the divisions. I think its stupid being involved in these little tribes, its bollocks and it infuriates me. It’s a counterproductive activity. With bands like Brutality Will Prevail selling out the Camden Underworld and bands like Veils and Goodtime Boys going to Europe it’s great to see that these bands can step up and they don’t have to constantly be the support act. We seem to as a country to have smashed through that. Although as people come into the scene some seem to be yearning for a tribal mentality, which is odd in my opinion. The trouble is that if the scene gets over saturated with the same sounding bands, kids will begin to move on to the new thing even quicker. You can’t underestimate the intellect of your audience, especially in these niche markets, it’s not fucking Lady Gaga. There needs to be a meshing in the scene or everyone would just fuck themselves over.
Leading on from your last point about over saturation do you think diversity on the label is one of your strong points? You’ve had bands from Touché Amore to Throats, two completely different sounds on the same label.
Alex: I think it’s healthy, although seemingly people are still confused by that manifesto. I wanted people to listen to Holy Roar bands and as a result get into different kinds of music, hence the range of bands on the label. It confuses people sometime. People look to identify to one sound on a label, they want to listen to a label and be able to say “this is this, I am this.” It can provide an identity for some but Holy Roar isn’t about that.
Away from hardcore what do you listen to, what would you say are your guilty pleasures?
Alex: I’m notorious for listening to lots of shit music [laughs] I’ve been listening to Devlin recently, he’s alright… I’ve been exploring a lot of southern crunk at the moment, Lil John and Juicy J and that kind of thing. There’s no point thinking of seeing anything as a guilty pleasure. I love Ke$ha and all kinds of stuff like that, it’s just about being open minded.
Have you ever thought about doing a covers album with Pariso?
Alex: Yeah all the time. Two of us really wanted to do a Rammstein cover, but our drummer told us we’d have to use a drum machine if we wanted to go ahead with it. We thought about covering Lostprophets, something off the first record. We’ve covered Crystal Castles, Eyehategod, Hatebreed, Three Trapped Tigers, it’s me and Stuart just trying to diversify, what’s the point doing things that people expect of you? It’s not a joke, it’s just about trying to express yourself freely, and it’s not about laughing at listeners or laughing at yourself or the source material. It’s just called being human. Life isn’t serious all the time, but it’s not a big joke, it’s just all mixed together. I feel like that about hardcore scenes as well, why listen to one thing or identify with one thing, i don’t think that’s being true to yourself.
If you could put out any band on Holy Roar who would it be?
Alex: Hatebreed would be awesome. I’d love to do Hatebreed. I think that band are like the Motorhead of mosh, you always know what you’re going to get and it always delivers. I ticked one off by releasing Will Haven, but I’d really have loved to worked with Vision Of Disorder. It would be cool to put out some of the early Korn records, or maybe Slipknot.
What band would you reunite if you could?
Alex: I’d bring back The Murder Of Rosa Luxemburg, they have to pick it up where they left off from the album musically, not become some hippy folk bollocks. Narcosis could reform as well. I think the At The Drive In reunion is odd as those guys are still active and earning from The Mars Volta, I don’t understand the reformation process there. Their set is a whole mix of material though, although they do focus on Relationship Of Command a fair amount which I think is better than just playing one album.
“Two of us really wanted to do a Rammstein cover, but our drummer told us we’d have to use a drum machine if we wanted to go ahead with it.”
Was your credit card/5” split release with Kerouac a costly venture?
Alex: That was literally the hardest thing, that and the floppy disc release we did were taking things to the absolute zenith. It was brilliant though, it’s the most me and Andrej [Tangled Talk Records] have ever pushed things format wise, I mean we only broke even by selling all of the copies and by selling it digitally on top of that. It was literally stupidity. I don’t regret it at all though, it probably helped cement Kerouac’s position and for a lot of people that’s their favourite song. I’ll continue messing around with formats as long as I’m running the label. I’m starting to think beyond that now, rather than formats what ways can you release things in a non-traditional structure, like this is a 7” this is an E.P, this is an L.P, I want to go beyond that and think about it in other ways. Can I for example give a magazine two songs, and just go “there you go, release that however you want”, just thinking about doing things in a different way. It’s not about being wacky for wacky’s sake, and it will never be about that either as Holy Roar or with Pariso.
If a band came to you and pitched a release on a crazy format would you be inclined to take them up on it, or would you only do it if you knew it would sell?
Alex: If they were doing it on a crazy format I would have to consider it, it would have to be a band who I knew would sell it, if Hang The Bastard came to me and said it I’d go with it straight away but if it was a brand new band I would probably leave it. It would depend on the scale of the band. The reason I did all the crazy stuff with my band was that with my own group I don’t care about making money or breaking even, obviously with a label you have to worry about paying the rent and making sure you can afford your office, there must be one eye on the finance. That’s the constant struggle between art and commerce. With my own band all I have to think about is the art side of the coin.
What is coming up next for Holy Roar and Pariso?
Alex: Well the new Pariso album is coming out on the 21st of May on Tangled Talk Records which is exciting for the band as it’s a full length L.P. On Holy Roar we currently have pre-orders for the Nibiru 7” and the new Monolith E.P ‘I, Misanthrope’ is available to buy! Pick one up!