“Black Metal. Black Shirts. Black Coffee,” states the mug that’s staring at me with its third fill of coffee today. This cup is emblazoned with the mantra of Holy Mountain Printing, a screen printing company that is slowly becoming an empire, located in North Carolina. Beyond doing commissioned work for bands across the country, Holy Mountain also is an online store for exclusive designs from some of metal and punk’s most prominent bands. Bands like Leviathan, Integrity, Pallbearer, Full of Hell, Earth Crisis, Drowning the Light, Yob and dozens more, as well as horror and cult movie apparel.
In an effort to be transparent and also self-servingly shameless, I do have to mention that Holy Mountain does, as a tax write off, have Krieg merchandise as well. That’s actually how I first met Danny Trudell, the owner and operator of Holy Mountain. As I’ve always been interested in other aspects of what keeps a “scene” cohesive and coagulated into a subculture beyond the music, the other creative minds who keep the machine going, I wanted to talk to Danny a bit about his operation, his life and his extensive record collection.
Seeing that he has incredibly diverse taste, I wanted to see what got him into music in the first place, as well as the visual arts and what caused him to combine the two into his life’s work.
“As a kid, I drew constantly and was obsessed with comic books,” he begins. “After getting into skateboarding, a subscription to Thrasher magazine quickly had me neck deep in punk and metal musi,c as well as all the art on the boards further inspiring my interest in art. Later in life, I did a brief stint in school for commercial art but dropped out due to a lack of interest in the lamer sides of ‘art’ and a more compelling desire to spend every waking moment skating. After dropping out of school, I helped my friend Brian work on his zine ‘Inside Front’ and packaged mail order for his band, Catharsis. I realized while helping Brian that I could do anything I wanted, whenever I wanted, however I wanted, so I did. I am eternally grateful to Brian for passing that DIY mentality on to me. I love art, I love music and I love doing what makes me happy and spending my time and energy on projects that interest me and are fulfilling.”
The DIY ethic cultivated through a youth spent immersed in punk and hardcore is instantly obvious to anyone who is familiar with Holy Mountain and Trudell’s work. Quality and diversity in nature is a central theme, it seems, to everything with the Holy Mountain name. But what made him what to follow this path? How long has this whole thing been going on?
“My shop has been in business for almost 20 years now in some form or fashion,” he says. “Previous to Holy Mountain, I owned a music venue in Winston Salem, NC that ended abruptly at a packed house Dillinger Escape Plan show where the cops walked out on stage literally two notes into their first song and closed the venue for good. I worked for a while as a merch guy / tour manager for a couple of bands, and after getting married and deciding to stop touring (with the exception of a Madball tour that I could not say no to), I settled down and decided to focus more on my print shop. At this point I was running my shop and running a record label, and as the label started to dissolve, I started bringing my ideas of Holy Mountain to life.”
I stated earlier that Holy Mountain’s roster of bands whose merchandise is available is incredibly diverse, spanning across every subgenre of metal possible and branching into various styles of punk as well. How does Danny decide what bands he wants to begin a cooperation with?
“Super simple,” he says. “If I like the band, then I reach out to them. I have to like what they are doing and find their art interesting and compelling. I suck at trying to be present mentally and think creatively about things I am just not into.”
On that same token, with so many bands he’s obviously a fan of, why doesn’t he start a record label? He’s quick to answer.
“I ran a label for about 10 years,” Trudell says. “It was mostly a nightmare of egos and constant conflict over money. I can say that I absolutely hated it. Holy Mountain has released a couple of things musically but just projects for fun, things I loved made by people I loved. That said, I would rather be kicked in the head repeatedly for eternity than be a full-time label again.”
Holy Mountain isn’t just music, though. There’s a lot to offer fans of obscure cinema and horror movies. Trudell also supports some independent artists through releasing merch with their designs and building webstores for them. I asked him to explain the non-musical side of Holy Mountain.
“All that is just fun stuff, things you feel compelled to do just for the pleasure of seeing them happen,” he states. “As far as all the old movie shirts go, I grew up in the age of VHS and the local video store. I was literally raised by horror movies and giant monsters. The guys at the shop and I enjoy taking old movie posters for films we love and making them into shirts. We are all fans and we geek out as much about making them as the people who are buying them.”
One of the most obvious things about Danny, especially if you follow him on Instagram, is his absolute love of music and record collecting. Every day before he begins work, he tends to post a few pieces out of his collection that are starting his day. From hardcore rarities to old-school hip-hop gems, it’s something different every time. His collection is fucking endless is what I’m getting at.
“I have around 3,000 12-inch records and about 500 7-inch records,” Trudell says. “Vinyl has always been my preferred format. As a kid, I got a used copy of the first Danzig album at a local used book and record store called Nice Price. I can still remember the first time I opened that gatefold and put it on the turntable.”
This brings us to the inevitable nerding out regarding the pieces that are most important to us. For Danny?
“There is a lot, but narrowing it down, I would say Buzzoven’s Sore was a life changing album, as well as their live shows when I was a kid,” he says. “My copy is signed by Kirk and I would definitely run into a burning building to get it. Leviathan’s Scar Sighted box. Aside from being a phenomenal fucking album, I was truly honored to be trusted with his first official online store (or at least one that actually paid him) and that record means the world to me because it came from that period in time. I have a copy of the Neurosis album Times of Grace on clear vinyl that was given to me by an incredibly thoughtful friend. It is my favorite Neurosis album and it is doubly important because of the kind person who gave it to me. I am obsessed with Belgian metallic hardcore from the H8000 scene and my friend Tim, who lives in Belgium, helps me track down the records I am missing. He has literally gone to band members homes to find me things I was looking for.”
“Thanks to him I have a giant chunk of the great bands from that scene in that time like Congress, Length of Time, Sektor, Kindred and Liar,” Trudell continues. “One of my most prized records is a 7-inch for an old Salt Lake City hardcore band called Lifeless. I obsessed over this record for years and after I married my wife it turned out she was friends with one of the band members and she was able to get me a copy. Original pressings of Confessor’s Condemned, COC’s Blind, Integrity’s Those Who Fear Tomorrow and Earth Crisis’ Destroy the Machines are all records that I could not live without and cherish. There are certainly more valuable or rare records in my collection but those records changed who I was as a person and that makes them much more special to me than and dollar amount you could attach to them.”
Obviously Trudell’s tastes are diverse but as a business he mostly deals in punk and metal. How does he see the two genres coexistence?
“I never really saw the difference,” he says. “When I was a kid, I was moved from Pennsylvania to a really small town in North Carolina where there was never anyone to tell me this band is cool or this band is punk or this band is metal. I liked heavy music and mostly searched it out on my own because I didn’t know many people that were into the stuff. At that age, for me, there was no difference between Public Enemy, the Cure, Metallica or the Dead Kennedys. It was all heavy. Heavy comes in a lot of forms and it is not always the most obvious distorted guitars and screaming vocals. I like music that sounds like it is life or death. Like the creator has to get it out or they will explode. As a 43-year-old man, now my mindset is pretty much the same, Black Flag was heavy, Slayer is heavy, Diamanda Galas is fucking heavy and I like heavy music.”
In a time where it seems everyone is so concerned with the mind numbing heaviness of the world, it’s refreshing to just sit back and talk about subjects we’re passionate about without it becoming Poison Idea’s Religion & Politics. To end the conversation, I’m harkened back to the time of shitty Xeroxed zines written by people with no ambitions other than spreading music they loved and ask Trudell what his future plans are.
“Just working hard to keep fun projects and new merchandise going for all the bands we work for,” he says. “Keep moving forward and fine tuning what we do and keep (hopefully) getting better at it all. This shop has come a long way, we now have a really talented, dedicated crew and looking forward to growing and expanding and continuing to keep things fun and unique.”
Visit Holy Mountain online here.