Interview with Chris Newby of UKEM Records

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Interview by Jason Guest

Jason: Hi Chris. Thanks for taking time out for this interview. To begin, can you tell us when you began UK Extreme Records and why you set up the label? What’s the label’s ethos?

Chris: The label was started in November 2011. About a year previous to this I had started the UKEM (United Kingdom Extreme Metal) Facebook group which absolutely took off and proved to be really popular, a meeting place for all things extreme metal and from the UK. As the popularity of the Facebook page increased, I decided to do a download release of UK bands. Entitled Disciples of Extremity Vol1, it featured 50 bands and was free to download. This proved to be very popular and people began asking the question, “So, when will UKEM become a label?” At first I just dismissed the idea, but then after thinking about it, then re-thinking about it, I decided to make the jump from Facebook page to record label, which admittedly is an absolutely massive jump, but because of the popularity of UKEM and the positive feedback I was receiving it didn’t seem quite as daunting a prospect.

The ethos behind the label is simple: release quality extreme metal from quality UK extreme metal underground bands. Our mission is to highlight the wealth of talent within the UK extreme metal underground. For too long our scene has been overlooked or been outshone by the American and mainland European scenes… It’s time to redress the balance!!!

Jason: How has the label developed since you began?

Chris: Massively! It’s fair to say I went into the label not really having any idea of what was really involved, but I did have a clear idea about how I thought a label should operate, which I then began to put into practice. Looking back on the labels first releases, the CD version of Disciples of Extremity Vol1 shows a certain simplicity and naivety, but it was all new to me. And having said that, it sold out really fast so can’t have been all bad, and there were some fantastic bands on there. Nowadays, releases are a much more controlled and disciplined affair. I’ve learnt what is needed and have put it into practice, although with each release I still make small improvements. Each release is still a learning curve.

Jason: “Extreme metal” is a broad term that covers a range of genres. What genres does the label focus on?

Chris: Black metal, Death Metal and grindcore, not going to wander very far from those three genres as they are my passion.

Jason: What were the first bands that you worked with? Obviously you were a fan of their music, were they friends of yours? And are they still working with you now?

Chris: The labels first “band release” was Laceration’s Tortured Inauguration. I came across Hamish (the one man behind Laceration) after he sent me a promo CD to review on the UKEM blog. It sounded absolutely amazing, real slamming brutal death metal, played with a real passion and was definitely one of the best sounding bands I’d heard in a while. So I contacted Hamish and we agreed a release. It was the labels first digi-pack release and is still personally one of my favourite releases so far.

Jason: I see that you’ve worked with Eastern Front, Blutvial and Flayed Disciple, three bands that are making considerable progress. Who’s been the most successful band that you’ve worked with so far?

Chris: I’ve only worked with these three bands in a very limited capacity, each of them appearing on compilations that the label has put out. From a label point of view, I would have to say that Laceration has been the most successful. Hamish has put a lot of hard work into Laceration and is definitely seeing success for all his efforts, which I think is great!

Jason: On your website, it says that UKEM deal in “strictly limited” runs. What amounts do you limit your runs to? After the run has expired, does that mean that there will be no more releases of those albums/EPs?

Chris: Releases are generally limited to no more than 100 units. I prefer to keep it this way as the label is still very young and still needs to develop and become more prominent. I didn’t want to over burden the label doing higher unit runs while we are still finding our feet. I’m sure, with time, releases will see higher volumes, but for now I’m happy with the limited quantities. Yep, once a release is sold, that’s it, we don’t do re-runs. I did re-issue Disciples of Extremity Vol1 however, but that was mainly to improve the design and packaging and to meet a small demand from people asking for copies.

Jason: What formats do you deal in?

Chris: CDs and we’re just getting involved in Vinyl, but that will probably be a one off as it’s a joint release with several other labels. I have no plans to go digital as my ethics are old school, I like to see a physical product, with artwork, photos, lyrics and thanks lists. Downloads are just so soulless!

Jason: Do you get a lot of bands approaching UKEM to release their work? How do you choose who to work with?

Chris: Increasingly I am getting more and more bands approaching the label asking for releases, to work together etc., which is really flattering considering the label is only one year old. I would love to work with them all, but finances play a big part, it simply wouldn’t be financially viable. The labels release schedule is really full well into 2013 but I can work with bands in different ways which I’m always happy to talk to bands about. Choosing a band to work with is simple. I listen to them and if I like them, I’ll work with them; if I don’t like them, I won’t. Quite simple really.

Jason: Are there any new bands on the UKEM roster that you’re working that we will be hearing about soon?

Chris: Well, as mentioned, the releases schedule is really full at the moment with some really exciting release from both established acts and relatively new, unknown acts, so keep an eye on the label’s news. There will be something for everyone to hopefully look forward to!

Jason: If bands are interested, how do they get involved with UKEM?

Chris: Send a CD for review on the UKEM blog – www.ukem666.blogspot.com – because that’s how all the bands on the label have come to my attention, with one exception. Bands can email the label at: info@ukemrecords.co.uk and I’ll send them the labels address to send CDs to. I’ll review them and if I really like the band’s music, I might be emailing them back!

Jason: What does the future hold for UKEM? How do you see the label developing?

Chris: Really hard to say; hopefully the labels reputation will grow, as will our roster and hopefully as the labels profile increases within the industry then we can start to ‘size up’. I’ve already made massive improvements to the way the label works and I’ve made some great contacts with other like-minded labels worldwide, some of which have provided me with some sound advice and guidance. For now, I’m happy to carry on as we are, releasing UK underground extreme metal in limited runs that hopefully have maximum appeal. I like to think I have a good ear and I believe that all of the bands that have/are working with the label show real quality which will then hopefully show through in the quality of the music on the release. Reviews of our releases have been extremely positive so far, long may that continue! UKEM are “Dedicated to Extremity, Supporting The Underground”…

And you can visit UKEM’s website here