Italian record label Heavy Psych Sounds has been keeping the sounds of stoner, sludge and doom metal alive and on wax for over a decade. Accompanied by a booking agency and a roster of bands that spans the spectrum from extreme to stoner, retro, acid, space and psych- rock, Heavy Psych Sounds have become a notable force from within their sonic territory. Decibel caught up with label head Gabriele Fiori to find out more.
When did Heavy Psych Sounds start, and what led to the creation of the label?
Heavy Psych Sounds started around 10 years ago. The first release was a compilation, was like a sampler of heavy, psychedelic bands so just for fun. After that, I had to manage with my band – at the time, we had a label, which was good but not good enough. Not good promotion, so I started to see how an independent label could work so I started promoting my band and then I started releasing some albums for my bands and suddenly while we were touring a lot and meeting a lot of American bands, I offered to release small EPs – EPs are 7-inches or full lengths as well. Slowly I started as a passion for my band and to help my band and started playing with other bands.
In a decade of existence, how has Heavy Psych Sounds evolved or changed?
We started as a do it yourself – well, it’s still a do it yourself label – with four, five releases a year maximum but now we’re going through 20, 25 releases and some of that are pretty important releases, at least for the label. We invested a lot of promotion, so now in Europe I think it’s one of the most known and respected labels and what I like to do, especially, is to explore, to be in touch with everybody and try to experiment as much as possible with promotion, different press agencies.
2017 was a huge year for most subgenres of metal and heavy rock. What did HPS do this year, and what can we expect from you in the coming new year?
For us, the last four or five years for the heavy psych/stoner/doom/sludge scene, the last years have been really good. Many, many festivals. It started to become a bit of a popular scene, which is good for us because we’ve been in the shadow for always, since the beginning.
We are working for this moment for the first part of the year 10, 12 releases and we have already started working for the fall 2018. The highlight will be the new Black Rhombus full-length and the reissues of Nebula.
One criticism of psychedelic/stoner/acid rock is that it is a genre that is about seeming retro or like a “throwback.” Do you agree with this, or do you see a lot of psychedelic bands pushing the boundaries of the genre forward?
Of course this scene put the roots in the pre-existing scene. It’s nice how things have been turning. The heavy psych scene is good because you don’t only have psychedelic. You have from doom to sludge to psychedelic instrumental stuff. Proto-metal, proto-punk, bands that try to emulate Black Sabbath, or you have the classic stoner from the 90’s. It’s good because everyone is connected, because you have shades of one into the other, like subgenres. I think everybody’s looking at the past, for sure we are trying to do something now new, but giving it a new direction.
What is the most challenging part of running a record label?
The most challenging part is probably to give the label personality.
What is the most rewarding part of running a label?
To see everybody happy. I hate when somebody complains, I really hate that. I try to satisfy everybody, so I’m happy when a band is happy, when they come back from a tour and they say everything was good.
Of course, people enjoy the label and one day they’re part of it. I think Heavy Psych Sounds is like a ship, where everybody can jump in and can enjoy a bit from bands to distributors to audience.
There is also a booking agency affiliated with Heavy Psych Sounds. How do you balance the two, and how do they work together?
Probably 60% of the time is stolen by the booking, but as you can imagine, all the bands want to tour and especially in Europe. There is a good scene in Europe. Me, as a member of a band, I knew how much this could be important and I started booking all my bands.
At the same time we are releasing records, at the same time the same bands are scheduled to go on tours. So it is good to have promotion from the record and promotion from the shows. Which is probably the real contact with the audience; you have a record, you have a band, the album is good. You went to see them live and you discovered the band is even better live, so you’re definitely more happy.