By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
When I moved to L.A. in ’96 from Seattle to do Goatsnake, I got a job at Aron‘s. I’ve never been treated worse in my life than at Aron‘s. Talk about a group of the most pretentious fucking people! Record store lackeys that are making like 4 dollars an hour, punching out for your 10-minute smoke breaks, they were a bunch of fucking losers, nothing going on musically or artistically. I almost gave up and moved back to Seattle. Ironically, the people that were the coolest to me at Aron’s were the people that had the most shit going on for them as musicians.
A friend got me a job at Caroline Distribution, answering phones, making copies, just crap. Stupid shit. But I got to hear all the music coming in from all the labels we distributed. It opened up a whole new world, and I was being exposed to it for free. I became friends with people at the different labels Caroline was dealing with, and so I learned from them how labels work. I moved up at Caroline, all the while doing music on the side with Goatsnake. Eventually I got tired of selling other people‘s records. Some of the stuff people were putting out, I was like, “Dude . . . I don’t wanna put my name behind this.” I held on for a while and then I decided to take a chance. Do my own thing.
SET MODEST, ATTAINABLE GOALS.
Burning Witch had continued on after I left, and they made a recording. And then eventually Steve came down here. Me and him were supposed to put out the Burning Witch and the Thorr‘s Hammer material with these other labels, and people just kept on flaking. A friend of ours who was really into this stuff, he was like, “You guys gotta put this out. I’ll give you the money, just pay me back.” And so we just did it. We just wanted to document it, get it out there.
MANIFEST THE BRAND: NAME, LOGO, IDENTITY.
Me and Steve would carry bottles of Southern Comfort around everywhere to parties and just get wasted. We were trying to think of a name for the label and I was just like, “Southern . . . Lord.”
Steve‘s a real amazing artist as far as like graphic design, and musically as well. His portfolio is sick. He’s done a lot of all the real famous Burzam covers, he‘s done Mayhem, Emperor. People love the designs. People want the package. Even if you’re not 100 percent into the music on the record, you buy it for the artwork.
The name Southern Lord doesn‘t really have much meaning, I just thought it sounded cool. Some people try to tie the label to this Satanic thing, and I’m like not really into that at all. I don‘t have any affinity to any sort of religion, really. I just put out this band called Place of Skulls, which is the guitar player from this old band called Pentagram, who were a pretty Satanic band. But his new band is Christian. They’re not blatant about it, they‘re just Christians. And people have been giving me shit: “What’s so evil about Place of Skulls, those guys are fucking Christians!” Well, I never claimed to be evil or Satanic.
People ask, “What is Southern Lord? Are you a stoner rock label? Are you a doom metal label? Are you a death metal label?” Our label puts out heavy, intense music, that‘s all. We’ve been lucky to escape the “stoner rock” label. Would you call Black Sabbath a stoner rock band? No. They‘re a heavy band. I just think labeling music in general is kinda silly. Sabbath are, for lack of a better word, the grandfathers of “doom metal,” but Melvins, St. Vitus, Trouble and Pentagram are just as important: They took Sabbath and fused it with more of a heavy metal thing, and that fusion comprises what I would call doom metal.
A lot of people think taking drugs and playing as slow as you can is what Southern Lord is about. Which it is -- kind of.
MAINTAIN BRUTAL FOCUS.
Initially, I didn’t really have any goals beyond the Burning Witch and Thorr‘s Hammer records. And those two records did really good: We got distribution, people were into it, our money was coming a back. We were stoked. The guys from the Obsessed who had been playing with me in Goatsnake were like, “Hey man, there’s all this unreleased Obsessed stuff, if you wanna put it out.” We‘re like, yeah, there’s a great band that didn‘t really get a lot of exposure. And these really rare and unreleased tracks we were getting for this compilation were killer stuff. So we used the money from the first two releases and put out that third record. And then that did great.
The whole time that this is going on I’m in Goatsnake. The fourth release happened because we were over in Europe touring with Electric Wizard, and it was just like, “Man, this band is awesome, I wanna put out a record.” And so we did. That‘s how it kept going.
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