Considering how quickly fairweather fans come and go from the metal scene, I guess you could say I’ve known “Cannibal” Cam Schwarz since the beginning of time, proportionally speaking anyway. An old-school lifer, Schwarz has been “fighting the good fight” in the name of his love for metal and against gainful employment for as long as I can remember.
Now, I don’t know or care much about experiencing music digitally, but being that Cam is an old bud and one of his main ventures these days is the running of digital distribution company, Friendly Fire Distro which works at getting music into over 100 digital shops around the world, I figured I’d throw him a bone and run a feature on him and his nose-to-the-grindstone ways for your Thursday afternoon reading. Plus, as you’ll see, dude has his fingers in all sorts of interesting pots and does so while calling the extremely un-extreme tourist trap of Niagara Falls, Ontario home. Also, he scored a bunch of us tickets to a rockin’ Dokken show a couple weeks ago and for that I’ll be eternally grateful. Seriously. Take it away, brah.
Ok, first off: introduce yourself and give us a brief rundown of how you got from aspiring young metalhead to being interviewed for the Deciblog?
Young? Not anymore! Well, I guess my latest endeavour would be running www.friendlyfiredistro.com, which if you have checked it out my fine music f(r)iends out there, is a distro is full of heavy and brutal music. Since I have been quite involved with the heavy music scene for quite sometime now, I knew a lot of people who could use the services of someone they could trust and who has built themselves up around the underground over the last two decades.
List off your metal-related “resume,” as it were. You’ve always done a lot of work behind the scenes over the years. Do you have any sort of musical background or embarrassing band history to speak of?
Geez, where to start? First, was starting a grindcore cover band back in ‘90-91 doing Neaderthal, Demise and many obscure short noise cuts. Then, it was my short-lived death metal band Mangled in ‘92 which I now got on iTunes. That lead me to putting together the first death metal show to ever hit the Niagara Region which included Inbred, Macification, Gastric Pus, Demonacy, Grotesque Infection, Mangled and Nails in ‘93. Rocked in a couple punk and alternative bands that sounded like Down by Law Dinosaur Jr. around that time as well. Also, during that time, I started a ‘zine called Disgorged Pandemonium and did two issues and continued writing for some underground and published mags and even local papers over the next 15 years. During that time I was in a So-cal punk band called Round 13 and then a psychedelic horror soundtrack band called It Lives Within. Did a little PR work some agencies and also worked with Bedlam Society from St. Catharines which turned into Bedlam Management (Alexisonfire, Bedouin Soundclash, Monster Truck, etc.). During the early 2000’s, I began working on short horror films and writing for horror magazines and websites. I still need to tread back to ‘97 where my friend Metal Dan and I began what we still do, Chronic Aggression radio. That was a heavy metal radio show which went on for four years, but called it quits in 2002 because the station went down. We worked on online video interviews and such, then finally it came back last April on 103.7fm/www.cfbu.ca. I’m heavily involved in the horror/cult scene now also working with www.nictophobiafilms.com which recently has done www.nightofthelivingdeadlive.com which ran in April to May (and is coming back to Toronto in October) which was an amazing experience. I’m also helping out Maurizio Guarini of Goblin fame as much as I can. Goblin happens to be one of my favourite bands ever. So, I will say that I have never stopped doing what I love and am still fighting the good fight because there is no other fight. And no embarrassing band history, sorry. I also have many things happening and projects that I cannot talk about at this moment, but things are looking up.
You’re a long time resident of the Niagara region of southern Ontario. How would you describe the pros and cons of the metal scene in your part of the world?
Lots of cons, it has never really taken off. It kind of did back in the 80’s with the glam rock scene and all but after that clubs shut down and all. I’ve always tried to bring real metal, along with some other folks around here, but there’s just something about Niagara that no one gives two shits about. We always went to Buffalo where real metal lives, and is living again. Glorious Times man Brian Pattison has been bringing back the old school with full force. So it has been quite a ride here in Niagara. Pfffffff
Ok, tell us about Friendly Fire Distro – how it came to be? How it’s changed? Your goals and hopes for it?
I started Friendly Fire because I was helping out www.stumblerecords.com, and he was thinking about getting a digital distro to sell all kinds of music. I took it over and the rest is history. I don’t want to just include metal. I love everything, but obviously metal is my main genre and fate keeps showing me where I should be. It hasn’t changed really because we are still young, but I have almost 200 albums for sale from literally all over the world. Some huge hitting acts from Indonesia, Columbia, Brazil, Iran and so on. I just hope to help more bands out and be the place to go to for bands and fans alike.
What are some of you more popular titles? How do you go about tracking down and adding stock to your distro? Who do you deal with/distribute/work and have partnerships with?
I’m so glad to have some killer bands on board and classics that shaped me when I was a young fucker. Impetigo, Nuclear Death, Nokturnal, Hammer, Holland, Leather Nunn and many new bands like Pathology that freakin’ kick soooo much ass. I love the roster and it’s only getting better, man. I work with Butchered Records, Amputated Vein, Sevared Records, Year Of The Sun, Dead Beat Media, Lacerated Enemy, Pathologically Explicit and a few more in the talks. I track pretty much everyone on my own. I love what I do and wanna make sure it kicks ass for everyone, so I constantly keep up on bands and the social media scene to find and track everyone down. It’s a full time job just doing that – holy shit! Just too bad a lot of the scene has some lazy bands and who just don’t care. Could be so much better for them and us, but what are you gonna do. Just keep on keepin’ on.
FF is an all-digital distro. Any particular reason for this? In your own personal listening/consumption habits, are you one who’s come to shun physical product over the years? Would you ever consider adding a physical product arm to your distro?
I don’t shun the physical as I still like to hold and read something, but digital can be easier and a lot of people, the younger scene especially, seem to go for the digital side. It’s still a new market and I’m glad to have this type of platform to offer the scene in this ever-growing industry. Gotta keep up. I have been thinking about adding physical products, but there’s a lot of competition and I’m not sure if I can handle that yet. I am helping Maurizio of Goblin with his new CD Creatures From A Drawer, so I guess that is a start. I do set up at some events with albums, so I’ve done a little so far. We’ll see. I don’t have to deal with anything physical which is tough ‘cause shipping costs keep going up and that hurts a lot of distros. Like I said, it’s a whole new industry, so I want to help out with amazing service.
What’s the biggest fear of a digital distributor? Slow internet speeds? Computer crashes? Solar flares? Having hours of work time disappear due to surfing porn the ‘net?
I’m always backing my shit up big time, but once it’s uploaded to my server, that aspect is out of my hands and into the stores so it’s not really such a bad thing. Slow internet speed does suck balls for sure. Doesn’t help that my kids like using the internet for their video games so massive usage does come into effect. Daddy does have to lay down the smack down once in a while.
What else do you have on the go in addition to FF?
I think I’ve exhausted everything, but I have never stopped doing what I want and what I love. I’m not getting any younger I just want to show my kids that you have to bust your balls for what you love. Nothing comes easy, I’m a testament to that ‘cause I’m still killing myself for the scene and all the fans out there. You can check out all my projects and such on www.facebook.com/cannibal.cam, www.facebook.com/chronicaggressionradio and the ones listed above. Any bands and labels need digital help just contact www.friendlyfiredistro.com and lets chat it up. Thanks a ton Deciblog, you’re my hero.