...and All Was Well

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If you were to collect a bunch of well versed fans of death metal into a cage fight and force them come up with a solution to the following question: Which label is embracing us with some of the best death metal today? What could the answer be? Since it’s only a theoretical situation rather than a study funded by the UN, our best guess for numero uno, after duking it out ourselves, would be DARK DESCENT RECORDS. We shot a few questions at the primus motor Matt Calvert to find out what’s up.

So let’s start from the beginning how did you get started with DDR? what were you doing before you started DDR?

Dark Descent started as an effort to help out a friend get his second album manufactured.  It wasn’t something I had planned for years, really.  I had a little bit of money that we initially invested and before you know it, I was looking for new bands to work with then things kind of snowballed from there. During the first three years of the label’s existence, I was serving in the military.  I retired from the military almost three years ago.

DDR has become arguably the biggest and best label for death metal in recent years. Did you have any idea that DDR would grow into the powerhouse it has become today?

Well, I know what I like and the label’s growth just goes to show that people share the same tastes.  I didn’t really have any ideas or aspirations for the label in the beginning.  I just really enjoy keeping my head down and working…all the other stuff will sort itself out.

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You’ve got a sort of sub-label, Unspeakable Axe run by one of your employees- how do you guys separate bands?

Eric Musall helps me with graphics and has since day 1.  The label would not be as successful without his talents.  In addition to being a friend who I can count on, Eric also has great taste in spotting talent.  We really work as two separate labels…on a day to day basis, there isn’t much discussion about bands.  If I get submissions and I feel it’s better suited for UAR than DD, I’ll drop Eric a note and vice versa.  Otherwise, we’re pretty independent.

One thing that put you guys on the map were some of the reissues by the likes of Timeghoul, Uncanny etc- how do you determine what you go after for reissue?

Obviously, I have to like the material…in a lot of cases, some of these bands are nearly unheard of outside small circles of demo hunters and the like.  We also have to consider things like how readily available past issues of the material may be available, is the material available to license (through the band or label) and we kind of go from there.

Is there a holy grail or white whale or reissue that you are still looking for?

I haven’t really thought about that one much at all though Timeghoul and Morpheus Descends would probably come close and both those projects were several years in the works.

Is running DDR your full time career/job, or something you to on the side like say Graham Landers of Deepsend etc?

It has been full-time since April 2012.

I’ve always wanted to know this: Do guys like you, who start labels, actually make any money or is it more a labor of love?

It’s definitely a labor of love BUT we do have to make money.  Money from these releases goes back into funding other releases and stocking titles for our distro.  I’d like to say I have millions stashed away somewhere so I can take a beating on releases, but that’s not the case.

DDR has a distinct style, is that a reflection simply of the music you the owner likes or what you feel the current ebb and flow of the metal scene is?

It’s definitely a little of both.  You have to be tuned into things around you.  I like what we release or else I would not feel comfortable promoting it and releasing it otherwise.

So is there any chance of DDR ever going outside the comfort zone and sign a deathcore or a power  metal band?

I think no would be a polite way to answer this question.

When a former DDR band moves on to a ‘bigger’ label, like say Entrails, is there a sense of pride that you birthed these guys or a little bit of resentment that they move on from DDR?

Pride?  Not really.  While I’m happy for the bands if they feel moving to a bigger label will help them, I am more excited when bands choose to stay with the label and see where this goes.  Labels like Earache started out small and those bands grew with the label.

Who would be the one band together or disbanded that you would want on your label?

Bolt Thrower.

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What is the  process for getting signed to DDR? Do bands reach out to you? Word of mouth? It seems that you guys are influential enough now that bands would come to you wanting to be on DDR.

We get submissions through Facebook, email and snail mail.  I’ve been known to reach out to bands once in a while but more times than not (now) bands approach us.  We also get a lot of info from guys already on the label suggesting new or existing bands to us that are looking for a deal.

We have gotten quite a few submissions from bands voicing their excitement about being on the label.  I think it’s great and it makes me want to work harder for the bands because there’s a reputation and standard to uphold.

I’m going to put you on the spot: Give me three DDR releases that you would take if you were stranded on a desert Island and why.

You’re killing me. That’s like asking someone which one of their children to they love the best.

What’s next in 2015 for DDR? You’ve got Desolate Shrine, Ghoulgotha and Invincible Force… what’s coming after?

Hacavitz‘s new album and the first album from Eternal Solstice in almost two decades!  We have several things at press right  now including new 7″s from Funerus and Thevetat, Goreaphobia‘s Vile Beast compilation LP, the new album from Crypt Sermon as well as the all inclusive Morpheus Descends compilation 2CD/DVD box set titled From Blackened Crypts. Sweden’s Sarcasm will see a compilation treatment and we have full-lengths from Adversarial and House of Atreus on the horizon as well!

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