Interviews

Talking past and future with Billy Nocera (Razorback Records)

I‘ve got to know the name of Billy Nocera a very very long time ago, when, believe it or not, there was no Razorback Records. But even then Billy was already quite an established name in the underground and I‘m proud to have the opportunity to interview him.

So, ladies and gentlemen, here‘s Billy Nocera of Razorback Records!

Well, Billy, can you recall how did you get into the so-called extreme music? What was the very first album that it‘s clicked with you and you went like, „That‘s it! This is the music I like!“?
For EXTREME music, I would easily say METALLICA “Kill ’em All”, but maybe that’s not considered extreme anymore? If not, then I would definitely say SLAYER’s “Reign In Blood”, which is still in my top 10 of all time metal albums. This was back in the 80’s for me. If you want even more extreme, then I guess obviously bands like DEATH and CARCASS without a doubt!

Billy in 1990

For youngsters accustomed to Internet and online shopping/streaming, how did you obtain new releases? Any local favourite store you can share some memories with us?
Wow, it’s hard to remember! I guess stores like Record Connection, Record Stop, Slipped Disc, and some indie stores that I can’t remember in the late 80’s when I used to live in Kansas growing up. I guess also chain stores like Tape World, Sam Goody, etc. It’s been so many years that it’s hard to remember actual stores anymore. It’s amazing to think there was a time where that was the only way to get music besides oldschool mailorder catalogs. I would say for the more underground stuff, I always got music through the mail than stores! The actual stores back then never had the real underground stuff. You had to order with money orders or cash through the mail.

Don Nunslaughter and Billy Nocera

Over the time we all encounter a not-so-mainstream release, and although back in early 80s even now mainstream acts were more-less underground, we‘re talking proper underground…demo tapes, bootlegs etc. What was your first real experience with underground metal?
It was when I started ordering fanzines in the mail that I began to discover demos and 7″ EP releases. I remember buying tapes and 7″ EP vinyl in the mail from bands like IMPETIGO, ROTTREVORE, MORTICIAN, INCANTATION, NUNSLAUGHTER, CREMATORY, FATAL, EMBALMER, GOREAPHOBIA, and from labels like Thrash Records, Seraphic Decay Records, Rotten Records, and whatever other obscure distro carried stuff back then. It’s so hard to remember every name these days haha! I think too much bourbon and weed has rotted my brain.

Basically almost every music fan wants at some moment to become a musician, some even go further and become distributors or start small underground, independent labels or do some underground zine (or both, or everything at once). You fill in all these categories…which one (apart form music fan, obviously) did you enter first?
I started with zines. My first underground release ever was a shitty newsletter called DEATHLY NEWS in 1990 that was only a few pieces of paper stapled together that I sold for some stamps I think? It was just some short reviews and news/ads for underground death/grind/noise/black/doom/whatever bands back then that were floating around at the time! I loved doing a zine because I was just a fan and wanted to show my love for the material and the best and easiest way (and cheapest!) for me to do that back then was a zine. I then started my own zine called THE COVEN with my old friend Brian in 1991. Brian was the only friend I had back then who was into death metal and horror movies and we were total freaks who didn’t fit in with anything, so getting into the underground was easy for us. We were spreading tapes in the underground harassing the religious radio show “Talk Back” from Bob Larson. We called ourselves “The Coven” back then and we even got Glen Benton from DEICIDE involved on that show and all that drama back then haha. It was pretty crazy since we were just 14 year old kids! Later on after that, I started to take the zine more serious and I did 3 issues with it. The death metal scene was my life in those days but the cracks started to show when it started becoming more commercial.

Well, Pile of Eggs.

As far I am able to find, you were first busy with your label Stupidity Records. This label was dedicated to noise, and man, what artists were on the roster! Can you share with you some memories how did you end up running that label? What did motivate you to do so? Noise artists are usually very easy-going and easy to deal with, can you recall any interesting memories while running that label? A favourite release of yours from back then? Which one was, so to speak, a bestseller?
I got into noisecore because of 3 people. Jim Konya from MINCH, Mike Duncan from GWOP RECORDINGS/BLACK MAYONNAISE, and Steveggs from PILE OF EGGS. I loved noise because you could do whatever you wanted to do and act like a maniac and record it and give it out to people or do trades with other freaks. By late 1992, the death metal underground started to get pretty boring and weak and everything was going black metal (which I loved early black metal back then also!). Noise was the most anti-commercial thing around and it was fun to yell like a lunatic on tape which is what I did! As for releases, the ones that did the best were Steveggs bands NUT SCREAMER and PILE OF EGGS and stuff like THE EARWIGS, BLACK MAYONNAISE, GENITAL MASTICATOR, EXTREME HAIR STENCH, etc.

Then, in 1994, you were finished with Stupidity Records and started Be A Freak Records? Why the change?
Stupidity Records was basically a joke label. I called the tapes “LP’s” back then and it pissed a lot of people off because people thought I was selling actual vinyl haha! They were just blank tapes with photocopied covers. The name of the label was making fun of “Relativity Records” who were this big metal distributor/label back in the day. It was a parody of that. It got boring doing that label after a year so I changed it to Be A Freak because I wanted to start releasing vinyl and CD’s!
I was sick of tapes even back then which is so funny because now tapes are “KVLT” again!

By that time you were active recording noise with the project Traci Lords Loves Noise (still one of the best names of the band!), later re-named Pissed Off Orgasm, and also (if I am correct), you were/are a member of Pile Of Eggs and Minch. Any other act from those bygone days I am missing here?
Haha, yeah everybody always gets a laugh out of that name. I was in PILE OF EGGS and also MINCH (for one split 7″) and I did other projects such as KILL ME and LORD ZILLABLASTER (total Godzilla worship noise!).

First, I am not sure if Traci loves noise (apart from making noise in porn movies back in the day, lol), but I guess you were a big fan of her back then, right? Why did you rename the project to Pissed Off Orgasm though?
It was a funny name and unique from other noise projects at the time! Obviously I thought she was beautiful, too! I changed the name because I was trying to go “more serious” and I was using better recording gear and the sound started to have a slight metal/grind sound to it with the guitars and everything. It was just a totally different project, but then later it became pure harsh noise because that was the thing to do back then. It was easier too haha! I think MERZBOW really was a huge influence but also whatever my friend’s projects were doing also influenced me. It was such a small scene then and we were all just good friends having fun making tapes and not giving a fuck. Death metal got really boring and there were too many bands that all sounded the same then. Not much has changed now I guess, ironically! In some ways, things are worse now than even back then. Everybody likes to romanticize the 90’s death metal scene but not all of it was great. It’s the truth.

Well, after a few years, in 1998, you shut down Be A Freak Records. Was it because of starting Razorback Records with Jill Girardi?
By 1994 I got heavily into underground horror/gore/monster movie collecting/trading and it became my obsession way beyond noise/music/whatever. I was collecting massive amounts of cult films. Before that, I only ever rented films at the old Mom and Pop video stores down the street from my house or I would catch them on cable TV whenever they were on. I always loved movies my entire life, even way before I ever got into music! It was fun to get a new package in the mail everyday with some kind of cult underground film. Later on I started to re-discover older metal bands that I hadn’t listened to in awhlie and I got very inspired to want to do some kind of grind label mixed with horror/gore themes. I was listening to a lot of DEAD INFECTION, GUT, C.S.S.O., MEAT SHITS, DEAD, HAEMORRHAGE, SQUASH BOWELS, and tons of other gore/grind bands because that was the best underground extreme metal in those days since regular death metal turned into such a joke! I hated all that SLAM/GROOVE/RAP-Metal shit and still do! That’s definitely where the seeds of Razorback started.

Billy and Jim Konya (R.I.P.)

It‘s no secret your idea was to run an old school metal oriented label, more-less dedicated to death/grind bands. And it‘s easy to see you‘re still going this path (which in itself, it‘s quite a feat!), going stronger and stronger. Some people call you an elitist, sometimes with a negative connotation. Although I see nothing wrong with such a label, do you view such rumours as unfounded? In other words, do you consider yourself a Old School Elitist?
Well, the label is definitely not active like the old days! I haven’t released a CD on the label in over 4 years now haha. CD’s are pretty much dead these days, or close to it. It’s hard to even sell them for 5 bucks each now. As for being an elitist, well… if I have come across being that way at times, then good! Haha! I like what I like and that’s it. I don’t really like commercial stuff though I have lightened up a lot more over the years. I’m 43 now! My heart is still firmly rooted in old things though. Old movies, old music, old books, old magazines, OLD OLD OLD!!! Haha! I’m a fucking old bastard now but I’m proud! Am I still the same kid yelling about noisecore and everything having to be “sick and extreme” now? No. Those days are long gone. I’m nowhere near as angry as I was in the old days, though I still hate a lot of lame shit! Ha! I never care about what’s popular. Usually the bands that get all the hype are the most boring ones to me. Give me some old demo or old album any day over new stuff. The same goes for movies.

So far you‘ve released almost 100 titles. Looking back, what one do you consider your most favourite? What about a release you‘re not that much happy about releasing?
Well, I got close at least! I think more around 85 or 86? I can’t even remember anymore! My favorites on the label were the IMPETIGO reissues, FRIGHTMARE, GHOUL (first and second albums), BLOOD FREAK, MACHETAZO, ENGORGED, ACID WITCH, WOODEN STAKE, HOWLING, GUTWRENCH, LURKING EVIL, ONIRICIOUS, and a bunch more!

Billy and Killjoy (Necrophagia, R.I.P.)

Above we‘ve mentioned underground zines, you have been quite active on the zine scene as well, I have a knowledge of The Coven, Savannatarashi and I Spit On Your Grave, the zines you had released back then. Although you are still active publisher, what do you miss the most about those old days of publishing? I know you currently write for the Compilation of Death zine, do you follow any other underground print publications? Any you would recommend to our readers?
I don’t really miss much about the old days of photocopying zines actually. It was a pain in the ass honestly! I would never want to go back to those days. That may not be the most popular answer people want to hear, but it’s the truth. I think anybody that still does that today is doing something special and all the best to them! For me, it’s a thing of the past. Thanks for mentioning Compilation of Death zine! That’s the fucking absolute best underground extreme metal fanzine around today! Even better that it’s published in a huge BOOK format because I’m more of a book reader/collector than a magazine collector these days. That’s a huge reason why I love publishing Evilspeak as a book, though ironically it’s called Evilspeak Magazine still! There are a lot of underground zines (both metal AND horror) going these days but I don’t really follow what’s going on anymore because I’m so wrapped up in my own world. I just don’t have the time you know? I’m working on my own books and also my own bands keep me busy, and I’m still somewhat active with the record label though not as much as the old days of course. I’m constantly working on new things that I just don’t have free time for everything now. I go crazy if I’m not working on my own things! It’s my obsession!

I‘ve read one of the reasons you‘d started Razorback was your fascination with (old and classic) horror movies and the desire to release records based on the love for horror and metal. And there‘s no doubt horror and metal go hand in hand. Now, if you should name 5 of your most beloved horror movies, what would those be?
That was definitely the biggest influence along with the band IMPETIGO! It’s hard to do lists but I’ll just name: GATES OF HELL (aka City of the Living Dead), HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB, NIGHT OF THE DEMONS, TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD, and SUSPIRIA. It’s so hard to only list 5 though!

And let‘s get back to publishing, because you don‘t only love horror movies, you also publish a magazine about it. It‘s called Evilspeak and I consider it, along Weng‘s Chop megazine and Grindhouse Purgatory, the top three mags currently published – but available to European customers as well for an affordable price due of those being published through Amazon‘s CreateSpace. How the hell do you find time to do all of that?
Weng’s Chop and Grindhouse Purgatory are both great indeed! Well, Evilspeak is definitely not easy to do. It takes a long time because we have a lot of writers involved and everybody is on their own schedule and has their own lives. It’s just very time consuming and I’m also always busy with music related things so I’m never able to do Evilspeak EXCLUSIVELY. That may be changing soon though as I’m really wanting to do Evilspeak more full time now. The record label business is fucking terrible now and I don’t enjoy it like I used to. It’s almost like a complete joke in some ways now. Labels are lucky if they can even move 50 copies of a tape now, let alone 300 copies of a CD! It’s just crazy now and very sad and depressing. As for Evilspeak, I’m really wanting to do it more often but it HAS to be when it’s ready and not rushed. I’m not into doing it just to crank issues out for the sake of it. It has to be something special and worthy or else it’s just totally boring to me.

Speaking of availability and affordability. Issues #1 and #2 of Evilspeak are available only through post and we all know the USPS rates are now absolutely and unbelievably expensive for any small entepreneur or customer alike. Do you plan to re-print them through CreateSpace as well, so we can complete our collection of Evilspeak?
That’s definitely a future plan! It’s all up to my layout guy, though! Haha! Justin… you ready to put that together yet?

Those high postal rates quite certainly affect the sales not only of Razorback Records, but all overseas trading folks and it seems, for time being, these are not going to stop rising year by year. How do you view the future of making your releases available to non-US customers?
The future? It fucking SUCKS! Sadly I don’t see much of a future for that at all. The rates will keep getting higher and more expensive. I’m sure eventually it will be literally impossible to sell ANYTHING overseas. It costs almost 25 bucks just to mail ONE t-shirt to Europe when years ago it was like 4 or 5 bucks! It’s just utterly sickening to me and really pisses me off. Very depressing, indeed.

Yeah, it would be a shame not to be able to get your the stuff you release for decent prices. But we‘re forgetting to mention something…t-shirts! You also selling t-shirts with our favourite horror movies‘ motiffs! When did you start this service and what was/is the response from the public? Any interesting plans in this field of business for the near future?
Basically, that is something that I wanted to do for years but I was always so busy releasing CD’s with Razorback. I love doing it and want to do more, but it’s a matter of finding the right designs to do that I’m passionate about and that I want to wear myself! I’m very picky about which ones to do. The response to the shirts has been killer, though! I promise to do more soon! I love doing that. It’s so much fun for me.

Vaultwraith’s second album’s cover

Anyway, it‘s time to wrap it up now…so, Billy, any interesting plans for Razorback Records in 2019? And most importantly, as I need that fix, when will new Evilspeak emerge over the horizon?
Well, Razorback actually has a new CD coming out from an old Finnish death/grind band called NEPHRITIS! It’s all their old demos from the early 90’s. If you love bands like XYSMA, CARBONIZED, REPULSION, IMPETIGO, etc. you will love it! I don’t really have any other plans for Razorback now, sadly. It will stay active as a small mail order though. Who knows. Maybe I’ll get inspired again to do CD’s but it’s just so hard to move them now and I’m not really hearing anything new that I like. I’d rather focus on doing older stuff like NEPHRITIS. That might be the future of the label, but I don’t really know honestly. As for Evilspeak, issue 6 came out a few months ago and now I’m working on issue 7!

And that‘s all, folks…any final message for our readers???
Thanks for the killer interview and taking me down memory lane! I’m getting older so it’s harder to keep up with everything I ever did in the underground. My goals are to keep moving forward with Evilspeak Magazine, doing more horror t-shirts, and to continue doing my bands VAULTWRAITH, SURGIKILL, and a few others I have in the works! Also, I’m now doing RAZORBACK PUBLISHING which is focusing on collecting some old death metal fanzines into book formats! You can read more about that on the home page of my web site at www.razorbackrecords.com

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Rudolf Schütz

A father to two little perpetuum mobiles called kids, Rudolf is a main force behind The Rubber Axe webzine, a bookworm, musick lover and a movie fan - not to mention his virgin forays into the comics and board/card games.

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