Bearded Label Love: Doomanoid

Our continuous quest to delve into the worlds of our favourite independent record labels sees Bearded head to Doncaster for a chin wag of monolithic proportions with Doomanoid Records.

Posted on Apr 1st, 2011 in Features and Interviews, Doomanoid / By Peter Clark
Bearded Label Love: Doomanoid It was over 40 years ago that four lads from the midlands decided to give birth to the heavy metal/doom genre that we know it as today, and despite prejudice and misunderstanding, Black Sabbath managed to carve out a giant piece of history that still reverberates with today's music scene, notably alive and thriving in the comparatively newly formed record label Doomanoid. Bearded put on its cleanest black t-shirt and decided to have a chat with label boss Steve to unearth the workings of his creation.

Hello. Firstly, who are you and what do you do?
My name is Steve Wilson, and people will probably know me best as the guitarist and one of the vocalists from Iron Void. The main thing I do outside of music is study English Language and Literature part time with The Open University. I'm a couple of years away from finishing a BA with them. It works well for me as I don't have to go to lectures at 9am or spend a fortune on fees. I didn't finish college / university first time round so I'm making up for it now at 31. It's helped me a lot with the creative side of the label and allowed me to think through complicated problems that would have had me tearing my hair out a few years back. I was a rebellious teen as well, so it wasn't meant to be at the time. I made several attempts to study Music Technology but to be honest I spent my time smoking weed, drinking and studying old Black Sabbath records more than the college work, as did most of my college mates! I decided to do something I'm good at that is not music-related, as there's little chance of it paying enough to live well on that alone.

Where does the name Doomanoid come from?
I came up with the name around 2007 when I was looking into forming a vinyl only label. I mistakenly thought it would be cheaper to press 7” singles rather than albums (it's not really).
About a year later we traded some copies of our home made Iron Void Live 2008 CDR with Austrian label Psychedoomelic Records. One of the items they sent back was the live Mood – Last Ride of The Doomanoids DVD. I had never heard of the band Mood (shame on me!) and thought it was a a weird coincidence that I had come up with the same name. It must have been fate.
It's really a play on the word humanoid. I suppose a Doomanoid is basically a human who is so influenced by the stoner doom scene that it has become part of their being, part of their very soul. The essence of who they are.

How did the label start out?
As I said above, it was originally going to be a label dedicated to releasing vinyl. I had to shelve the idea as it was just too expensive. The first band I asked to do a 7” vinyl was Witchsorrow, who have now signed to Rise Above Records. We've gigged with them a few times with Iron Void and get on great. They would have been perfect for the vinyl project but it was doomed from the start as it turned out.
In 2009 I found a company called Torch Music who pressed CDR's in quantities of 100, with full colour booklets. They are very high quality and as close to factory pressings as I could afford. The first release was Martian Pope by Misty Morning. It's a remixed and remastered version of their demo with a cover version of 'The Wizard'+ by Black Sabbath as a bonus track. I was impressed by the original demo and just emailed them to see if they would be up for re-releasing it on the label as the first release. The singer Luca got straight back to me and agreed. I did a few CDR releases including two compilations (Planet Doom 1 & 2) and the Iron Void debut. I've now moved on to factory pressings but still use Torch. The first is The Sleeping Wizard by Groan which has just been released nationwide.

"I suppose a Doomanoid is basically a human who is so influenced by the stoner doom scene that it has become part of their being, part of their very soul. The essence of who they are."

How does the average day/week pan out for you?
I spend a fair amount of time online sorting through sales from the website and answering emails. I have to fit label activity around my university study and work commitments so it varies. Some days I am really busy and others nothing happens and I just have a pile of unsold CD's to look at! I don't really have a 9 to 5 lifestyle. It's normal for me to be doing these interviews at 1 or 2am just as it's the only time I get the chance.

How has your job changed since you started?
The job of running the label has changed from me biting my nails wondering if any bands will actually want to take part in it to turning them away. I have already reached the maximum amount of bands I can afford to work with. I used to like the Man's Ruin label that artist Frank Kozik ran in the 1990's. Apparently he signed too many bands and went bust. I'd like to avoid that. As I'm running things on my own, I do worry about over doing it and burning out. I hope I don't.

You’re focusing predominantly in obscure, heavy music. It’s clearly not a route to millionaire riches, so what would you say is the aims and goals of Doomanoid?
The goal of the label is the same as when I started almost two years ago. I wanted to release music by bands that for some reason were being overlooked by the indie labels that inspired me. There seemed to be a status quo in the doom / stoner rock genre. The same sound was appearing again and again. I've managed to put out bands that each have something unique about their style. I hope I can keep doing this. If things get stale I will have to rework a few things.
It's not a route to riches, that's for sure, and there are low points when sales stop altogether. The fans themselves are not always that well off financially too which means it can take a few months for them to get round to buying something they like. I'm the same when it comes to buying stuff. In fact I'm worse as all my money goes on this. I still cling on to the idealism of creating something a little outside of the established norm that is interesting and not solely motivated by profit. Come back in a few years when I have a mortgage and two kids and I may well have a different view. For now I'm holding on to that, even if I make a loss. In fact you feel like a martyr when you do make a loss. It must be good or I'd be selling millions and competing with Lady Gaga.

In an ever changing world of music formats and distribution, how do/are you evolving and keeping current with the current scene, and where do you see the future of Doomanoid heading?
I think the future for the label lies in vinyl and deluxe collectible pressings. These are a fair way off yet due to the compete lack of money that I am experiencing along with everyone else at the moment. I'm gradually putting stuff on iTunes and Spotify just to share them with as many people as possible but bands can do this themselves. They don't need a label for that. The label will be useful to them as far as the distribution side of things goes and for reaching an audience who already follows the label. I can't claim to have made Groan into rock stars but I have helped them get reviewed in the mainstream rock and metal press and their album is in HMV etc. It helps bands to be taken seriously and raises their profile. Plus as I get more experienced I will be able to offer bands a package comparable to similar more established labels. It might lose some of the underground appeal but it will be traded for quality – Gatefold sleeve, coloured vinyl, digipack CD's with really nice artwork etc. I think you have to be mad or rich or both to do this in today's world. It's been a dream of mine for years though. One day I just said to hell with the money and decided to try and do it. It's hard though when you don't really have enough and have to make cut backs here and there.
misty morning

"I still cling on to the idealism of creating something a little outside of the established norm that is interesting and not solely motivated by profit."

Can you see a resurgence in independent record stores, or have things changed so much that there’s no going back?
I have seen a lot of beautiful limited vinyl releases lately and the market for them seems to be growing among rock fans. There's a younger audience now that is just discovering them and collecting stuff. I think they will mainly be sold online and at gigs though. It's easier to browse for stuff on the net as long as you can be bothered to wait for it to arrive by post. I look forward to it rather than moan about the wait. Downloads are too easy and not collectible in any way. Casual listeners who want some tunes to listen to on their iPod probably don't care that much. Die hard fans still want collectibles and will not give them up easily though. There's a mix on new technology and old school tradition that appeals to me with vinyl. If it's 180gsm or similar, well pressed and on a decent turntable (even my old Aiwa), it can blow CD and mp3 away sound-wise. Traditional shops seem unlikely to come back though. The costs are too high and the internet is open 24 hours.

It’s only been two years since you began, what have been some of the highlights and lowlights of your time at the label? And what sort of things are you learning along the way?
Each release has been a highlight in it's own way. My two favourites are my own EP with Iron Void and Misty Morning agreeing to be the first release. It was a really impressive start. Groan have also just come out of nowhere and took us all by storm. They had the unlikely pleasure of announcing their debut album's release at their first live gig; that doesn't happen often. I've met some of the kindest, most sincere, creative and inspiring people I've ever known in the past couple of years. I was amazed that every band I asked to appear on the Planet Doom CD's agreed, except one from Japan but they probably couldn't understand a word of my Email. I've learned that if you have the guts to ask for what you need, you often get it. I haven't applied this technique to my personal life yet but it seems to work (within reason).

You’re based in Doncaster, do you think this is in a way more advantageous to be based in the heady city of London, or is your location irrelevant?
As far as promoting the label releases go, it's pretty much irrelevant as most of it is done online and in magazine reviews and adverts etc. My experience of London from a band's point of view is that it's too spread out and there are too many gigs happening at once. No one person could visit half of them. The opposite is often true here up north. I would ideally like a mix between the quiet life I have here and the openness of a large city. Doncaster is not really a place I do much these days though. I spend a lot of time over in Wakefield as Iron Void is based there and they have The Snooty Fox, which has been a venue that has supported us since day one.

"I wanted to release music by bands that for some reason were being overlooked by the indie labels that inspired me. There seemed to be a status quo in the doom / stoner rock genre."

Where would you advise someone to begin when wanting to discover the music of Doomanoid, or in fact, with the Doom/heavy genre’s in general?
My website is the best place to check out the label, as I have all the CD's for sale. The myspace is still running, at least for now. There is a music player on there and I also have label pages on Friendburst and Reverbnation.
I got into a lot of bands via Myspace, but that seems incredibly retro now. I hear it's almost defunct. It can be a tricky genre to approach as it's so closely linked to the stoner/psyche scene as much as doom metal (both are derived from 60's and '70's hard rock and prog and Black Sabbath though which I think explains the link). I started out by listening to Kyuss, Fu-Manchu and Acrimony then moved on to Cathedral and 70's Black Sabbath. These bands are a great place to start. Then move on to Saint Vitus (And all Wino's bands past present and future) and Pentagram. That ought to do the trick.

Any advice for someone wanting to set up their own label?
At least try and set up a partnership with a couple of friends to share the cost and workload. I deliberately avoided this as I wanted to control what I did and when I did it, basically the opposite of a group situation, a break from what I have in a band. The downside of going it alone is the pressure and financial risk is all on you. I answer to no one though and I can do whatever I want with it.
Also I would advise you to avoid releasing stuff by all the local bands you know just because they are your mates. They almost certainly won't sell. It's a good idea to find bands that are based relatively near to you though so you can ship stocks of their albums to them and get them over for gigs. I am sticking to UK and Europe for this reason. If I sign an American band I won't even be able to meet them for a drink and a chat without crossing the Atlantic, and sending copies of albums to them could end up costing a fortune too. I've kept it localised for that reason.

Do you carry an ethos or mantra?
I don't have a neat phrase I can finish on. I always try and do my own thing and hopefully it turns out good. I follow my instincts. If I think it sounds/looks good then most people with similar tastes will probably feel the same. It's worked so far. I get that driving blindly off the edge of a cliff feeling a lot if I think too hard about what I'm doing, but I'm sure we all do these days. Don't we?