I’ve noticed the name of Heathen Tribes for the first time when I’d discovered and reviewed Bathyum, the UK black metal one man project, with his album “Rituals of the Damned”. True, that was a few years ago.
Just recently I’ve been in touch with Nikos, one of the owners of the label and because I have to say I like their roster and the attitude, I’ve decided to see what are they about. Are you ready to join us?
Hello, Nikos and thanks a lot for your time! Not to waste it, let’s go straight to the first question, which is probably the most asked question ever, haha…so, what can you tell us about Heathen Tribes label? When was it founded, who’s behind it and how did you actually come to the decision to start a label in the first place?
Hello Rudolf and thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak about Heathen Tribes!
I would also like to thank you for your kind words, it’s truly appreciated!
The label was founded in 2015 but our first release was in the beginning of 2016. We are actually 2 people running the label, it’s me and Teo, my associate. We know each other for over 20 years and by the time we first met we were already devoted metalheads. The thought to be professionally involved in heavy metal music had been crossing our minds every now and then. To somehow turn our passion into profession seemed like an ideal scenario. But it only remained a thought, as we both had our regular jobs and never really seriously considered the prospect of actually running our own label. I guess that the fact none of us had any money for such an investment was rather a discouraging factor!
So, here’s the story : I come back home from work one day and a small parcel had arrived. 2 demo tapes i had ordered were enclosed, one for me and the other one for Teo. It was a very decent release with old school aesthetics, so i was sure Teo would like it as much as i did! We met the next day at his place and i gave him the demo. Tape started to play, a purely 80’s aura emerged from the first riffs and we reminisce about the good old days! You know, we both grew up with tapes and nostalgia for that era often takes us over. At some point, i asked Teo:”What does it actually take to make a tape release? I thought of it yesterday when i got the demo tapes…tapes are back and i see more and more tape releases….so what do you think, shall we make a research? And who knows…” Teo liked the idea, gave me an agreeing look and without saying something – but i could see his eyes were blazing – he started to google…seeking information. As they say “the beginning seems to be more than half of the whole”…and after gathering some more information within the next days, the seed of the idea of running our own label was planted for good…
From the information I have available, your very first release was “It’s Only Getting Worse” by Canadian thrash metal outfit Powered By Death. Can you share some light on the choosing this for your initial release? How was the response from the public and from the distance of a few years, how do you view it now?
We were a newly founded label, unknown in heavy metal circles and without any official release yet and these were surely limiting factors for some of the bands we requested collaboration. In any case, we were looking for new and unsigned bands we could possibly work with. At some point, while i was searching, i came across Powered By Death’s album. Holy Smokes! This album just blew my mind! Such an amazing old school thrash metal, i remember i listened to it 3 times in a row. Later that day i was going to meet Teo, so i didn’t mention something to him beforehand. I arrived at his place and i told him there is something he needs to listen to right away…well, after a while we were both headbanging hahaha He also loved the album so we agreed to write to the band. The rest is….history!
We got a lot of positive feedback but we didn’t sell so many copies as we initially expected and the main reason is that we were still an unknown label. Neither me nor Teo have regretted it though. Powered By Death’s album was a great choice for our label’s first official release and we considered it to be a great old school thrash album!
Year of 2016 also saw the release “Shotgun Surgery” by Norwegian death metallers Deathfare and Heathen Tribes’ first cassette release in the form of Valgaldr’s album “Østenfor Sol”. Did you wanted to embrace the whole range of metal genres under the Heathen Tribes umbrella? From a research I see Valgaldr release is totally sold out… for those who – say, after reading this interview – want to get it (or any other sold out releases), do you plan any re-editions of sold out titles?
What we wanted to do was to release albums that we also enjoy listening to, no matter if it is black metal or power metal.
Valgaldr’s album was released on CD from another label and on cassette from our label. There are still a few copies available for those who would be interested in buying one!
At this point, we don’t have any plans for re-editions of our previous releases as we are basically focused on new material. But we are not balked at the thought of reissuing some sold out titles in the future.
Let’s stop for a second at the interesting non-catalogized item, namely Idis Örlög’s album “Frøya og Svipdag and Songs from Njartharlåg”. Now that’s a folk music, or, and probably more fittingly, we can call it “world music”. Can you tell us something more about this album and why did you decide to co-release it with other labels? Any particular fascination with Nordic folk?
This was a very interesting release! We were asked if we would like to co-release it with other labels, we liked the idea and we considered it to be a good chance for us. This album is about the pagan past of the north and rediscovering the heathen roots through Nature, Norse Gods and legends and forefathers spirit.
We are fascinated by myths, legends and folktales throughout Europe!
Browsing your release list, it does seem that you’re inclination is more and more towards black metal and its various subgenres, but occasionally you release quite an unexpected album, like Dark Awake’s “Will of Iron”, a neoclassical/dark ambient album, and you’re not shy to release also a special edition CD-ROM as in the case of Mumincunt’s “Visor från Muminskogarnas Mörker”. Will you eventually become an exclusive BM label or still prefer to release different genres based upon how good the album is?
It’s true that most of the albums we have released are black metal but we don’t have an intention to become an exclusive BM label. We basically prefer to release different genres based upon how much we enjoy the album we want to release!
We’re still not far away from the end of 2019, you’ve released 7 different releases in that year, so I’d say it was quite a successful year for Heathen Tribes, would you agree? Did all your plans come to fruition?
It has been a very productive and successful year indeed, the result of hard work. We have been running the label for some years now, not too many, but enough to have gained some experience that would be useful down the road. We had some discussions in the beginning of the year, we took certain decisions and we set some realistic goals. Of course, there are often unpredictable factors on the way that can make you change your plans but a careful consideration can help you eliminate such possibilities. We had an overall plan – followed by ample amounts of hard work – in order to achieve what we set out to do and we are both satisfied because 2019 was eventually so productive, it exceeded our expectations.
And it’s 2020 and you already have a brand new release out, namely Japanese Folk Metal compilation. Now that’s some nice line into Japanese culture, along with Shadow Warrior’s EP you’ve released last year! Anything you can discreetly tell us about the upcoming releases for this year?
I respect and admire the Japanese people greatly. Friendly, respectful and noble people. They have an amazing culture and a long history of accomplishments , honor, discipline and integrity.
Shadow Warrior‘s ep “Return Of The Shadow Warrior” caught my attention not only musically (amazing old school heavy metal!) but aesthetically too. (The cover of their ep is a Samurai with the Rising Sun Flag!).
Japanese Folk Metal was the 2nd band from Japan we collaborated. The 1st one was No Point In Living, our label released their album “The Cold Night” (DSBM) on CD.
For those who are into Japanese culture and like epic heavy metal i recommend the album “Invincible” from the Italian band Holy Martyr!
We had a lot of different ideas and plans for 2020. Unfortunately, with the outbreak of Covid-19 every sector of the economy has been adversely affected and this totally absurd situation had its inevitable impact on our daily lives and businesses. Although we didn’t want to, we eventually had to abandon some of our ideas and reschedule our plans. In any case, we are still standing here and people should not only expect a lot of new releases covering the whole range of metal genres but our first Dungeon Synth releases as well!
Going over all your releases…this will be a hard question I guess, but if you have to pick your favourite release, which one would it be and why?
This is a very hard question indeed haha! While i honestly don’t have a particular “favourite” release, perhaps i would say Profundum’s “Come, Holy death”. The atmosphere of this album is so dark, mysterious and haunting.
Now, this interview will be – hopefully – read also by people active in various bands. Are you open to bands’ promos for a possible release and if so, what genres do you prefer? What’s the best way to contact Heathen Tribes?
We are always open for new collaborations so any band can feel free to contact us and send us a promo for a possible release. We don’t really have any particular preference so bands from any genre should not hesitate to communicate with us. The best way to contact Heathen Tribes is via our official email account : firstname.lastname@example.org
And the last one for today – any merchandise to offer to readers? Where to look for your releases, and – because of the rising postage rates – do you have also distribution around the world?
Sure! We can offer the following 3 albums for one lucky reader : 1) Powered By Death “It’s Only Getting Worse”, 2) Deathfare “Shotgun Surgery” 3) Enthroned Serpent “Towards the Unknown”. So, the 1st one who sends you a message gets the copies!
People can find all of our releases on our bandcamp page : https://heathentribes.bandcamp.com/merch
We have some discussions with interested parties, if there is any development we will announce it on our FB page. For the time being, people can purchase directly from us.
Any final words?
First and foremost, I would like to thank our great friend Stella P. for helping us establishing the label in Germany in the first place! Without her invaluable help we may have never been able to come into existence!
I would also like to thank Kevin McAdams from Crucial Fix (NY) for believing in us and giving us the opportunity to release their S/T album, a long overdue gem from the 90’s, that’s been kept out of physical form for over 2 decades. It was a great honour for us!
A big thanks to Jan Kruitwagen (Sammath/Kaeck) for trusting us from our very beginning, offering is the chance to release Kaeck’s “Stormkult” -one of the best BM releases of 2015 – on a special cassette edition and a fantastic vinyl version! His continued support is highly appreciated!
Again, i would really like to thank you for this interview and your genuine support!
Special thanks to our friends Stavros (you know who you are!) and Konrad (Ditheist) for their great support all these years!
Last but not least : I would really like to thank all the bands we have collaborated so far, you guys rule! Of course, all the fans who have supported us through our journey n the world of heavy metal! Without you guys, we wouldn’t have made it so far!
Once again, many thanks for your time and all the best for the label!!