I am not really sure how I’ve end up getting the distro update from Akné Productions, but one day the e-mail had landed in my inbox. Then I’ve discovered this small label/distro is actually from my home country of Slovakia so, that was one more reason to check it.
Well, you know how it goes (usually, lol). Not long after that and to Slovakia went my money for a first order. Pleased with the service, I’ve decided to give Wayne a shout and to give him a chance to introduce his label and distro to the readers of the Rubber Axe webzine. So, here we go!
First things first (and as a former zine editor you know how it goes), so, what can you tell us about yourself?
How does it go?! I should have some experience with it, however, paradoxically, I really have no idea what to say about me. I don’t want to drag my private life and my family into here and there’s nothing else I can boast of!
What were your beginnings into the world of metal music, which bands have introduced you to the metal as such, and when did you start to discover the proper underground?
Looking back to the past, as far as I remember, I’ve started to notice the music – the metal one, of course – when being about 12 years old, approximately in 1986. First contacts have been with stuff available – Tublatanka, Citron’s [album] „Radegast“ – the bigger and more known, and therefore more readily available bands in the former Czechoslovakia. You certainly remember that time as well, there were only two camps – you were either a metalhead, or a Depeche Mode fan. I’ve belonged to the first one. Of course, later on we’ve gradually started to get – in addition to the recordings from our home scene – prohibited stuff from Hungary or Czech Republic. Tapes have been dubbed from friend to friend. You know, you can imagine the sound quality of the God knows what generation of copy of King Diamond being played from the mono-speaker of a tape player or a walkman through those tiny speakers (so we can listen to it together with buddies). And still we’ve been happy and so into it – it’s something today’s generation can’t even imagine!It’s began with classics, such as Iron Maiden, Helloween, Judas Priest, Accept, later on Metallica, Slayer, Kreator, Assassin, Protector, Destruction, Sodom, Sepultura and so forth. I’ve started to attend a high school in 1990 where I’d met even more crazy guys and we’ve got into death metal . If I discount Sepultura and their “Schizophrenia”, my first death metal tape was Entombed – “Left Hand Path”, and from that moment it’s started to snowball. The beginning of 1990s marked the gigantic boom of death metal – and extreme metal in general. I guess it went hand-to-hand with the atmosphere in Slovakia, the regime’s change.I think people were literally hungry for extreme music.I was no exception, I’v started to collect and trade recordings – still, of course, as a consumer and a fan. I took everything with a distorted guitar!
There’s the thing in the underground, after a while one might get inspired by others and looks to start his own thing, whether it’s a zine, a distro or own label. You’ve done all three, so let’s talk a little about those activities. You’ve done a long running zine Podsvetie (The Underworld), written in Slovak language, which ran in 24 issues (which is pretty awesome, if you ask me). What was the inspiration behind starting a zine? I remember quite a few great zines from Slovakia, which one has inspired you (if any) the most?
Gradually I’ve been swallowed by music to such an extent that I’d started to feel I wanted something more.In 1995 I’ve started to get first fanzines, they were already being produced, and I’ve started to entertain the idea of publishing my own zine. The first issue was released about the beginning of 1997 and looking at it now, I have to laugh, but back then it was simply the way to do it.I loved it – to learn what’s new with the bands, to have the first hand info, so to speak…I would be lying to claim I haven’t been inspired by any particular zine. It went exactly according to that scenario. Before starting my zine I’ve got Death Thrash Info, Immortal Souls, Metaliště, but the real impulse came with Loss of Sanity,issue #2/3…
To publish a zine is a great thing to do, but also quite a difficult one, especially when talking about printed zine. What would you consider the most positive (and also most negative) aspect of publishing your own publication? What about the reviews of Podsvetie in Slovak and world underground scene?
Well, from the beginning I’ve thought it wouldn’t be that demanding. It was such a time – I haven’t thought much about it and thought I was gonna make it somehow. Only after some time you’re gonna realize it’s not without problems! The positive aspect of it – by all means – is me becoming a part of the underground and – I will allow myself this claim – being accepted in part. It was great, you’ve come somewhere and instantly have a bunch of friends being on the same bandwagon.The negatives? Of course, after some time your eyes opened up and you realize it’s not that simple things to do.First, you have to collect the material, then to put it in some form and in the end to pay for the publishing, and you’ll never see that money back.At least in my case I’ve never seen the money back.But I’ve been such a maniac that I’ve taken up a temp jobs so I could pay for xerox, later on the print (issues 6, 7 and 8 were pro-printed). Reviews were varied, some people have supported and valued your work, but there were also those others! To be honest, I’ve never cared and just go my own way. I haven’t supported the “big” bands. It has always been a fanzine, and later on a distro/label, for total underground!!! Those familiar with me can certainly confirm that!
I guess it’s safe to say Podsvetie has finished its course with the final issue #24. What was the reason behind stopping the publication?
Podsvetie was published since 1997 till 2015 (with minor breaks). Those breaks in publishing were from 2005/6 do 2008 – my son has been born and I haven’t that much time to continue with it. Gradually the time has been available again, therefore Podsvetie continued from 2008 to 2015. After that it was finished. Not enough interest, new, modern age, Facebook – I am simply old and I don’t understand the youth.I was different! Really, I can’t understand this young generation and the fact is I am working with them! With the final issue, only my peers of 40+ of age have showed any interest, and they even sent more money for a copy than requested!The rest of them? Hardly worth the mention! The distro is still running and I still have that minimal contact with the underground…I guess such a “maintenance” contact suits me for now – and I’ve stopped publishing Podsvetie. But to finish on the positive note, there still might be a time for another issue.
Looking back over your shoulder, can you tell us which interview you’ve consider the best one you’ve done, and, on the contrary, which one has disappointed you? Which issue you’d say was the best one from your own perspective?
Hmm…that’s a question to think about. The best interview…I have no idea, really! There were some I’ve done live with a recorder, then the classic method – by letter, later on via e-mail. Don’t know, every one was interesting for me. However, I do remember one time getting ready to interview Kadath (Belgium) – stress, preparation etc…in the end I haven’t gone there!Or with Agathocles, again, the same routine – stress, preparations etc…I’ve come to the meeting, them haven’tin their place there were, for example, Dead Infection, but they were so fucked up so my friend has ended up doing the interview for me, I was just stupidly smiling!There were a few more such “cases”! The worse ones? …well, I haven’t been satisfied with short answers…but there’s nothing you can do about it…
I’d guess you’ve started the distro along doing the zine, right? Again – as it’s not the easiest thing to do – what has motivated you to do so? And for those interested to, maybe, start their own, how would you describe the operation of distro, how much time and money have you invested in building it?
To be completely true, it went like that – first, I’ve started the fanzine, however, of course, I’ve been trading tapes, but not as a distro. Some time in 1997/8 I’ve met the band called Angel´s Decay, whom I’ve started to help with the promotion. Back then, when you wanted to be known, you had to have a demo and push it everywhere possible, or to do gigs (gig-for-gig). And because guys haven’t had their demo yet, we’ve started to do Akné Fests. Great gigs from the start, good reviews, and even after that, when we’ve gone little bigger – from the club to the city culture-hall.That was really pricey though, and it’s happened we’ve lost a lot of money sometimes. Then, in 1999, guys finally recorded their demo and we’ve made a deal that I could release it under my own label, and that’s how AKNÉ Productions has started. I’ve released their demo on a profi tape with a profi black-and-white cover. There was a problem to print the first batch of 600 covers, nobody wanted to print them because of the cover image – such was that time period! First 300 pro-tapes with them. When they were done and I’ve started to do the promotion, I was called for a mandatory army service and all things have been halted for almost a year!!! After being released from the army I’ve done another release, APOPLEXY. I’ve met M. Dugi, their guitarist – while been in the army service. They were among the first bands in Slovakia to release their stuff on CD – it was 1995. After the army service, in 2000 I’ve released their last album on pro-tapes (500 pro-tapes with full colour cover). Then came Craniotomy, after that another batch of Angel’s Decay and Craniotomy in the press of 1000 copies. Something unbelievable today, considering what quantities bands releasing their material nowadays! With me, it always went like that – all the money I’ve earned selling tapes, later on with the distro – for I’ve traded my releases with other people and sold those in my distro – I’ve invested in the label. Of course, running the label was financially more and more demanding, but it being – and still is – my hobby, I didn’t care. I’ve got a job (still do), so I’ve put the money I’ve earned into the label. Of course, there certainly were distros with some profits in Slovakia. I wanted to run a distro to be at least on break even, but it has never happened!
CDs versus tapes versus vinyl…what is your preferable weapon of choice when it comes to music listening?
Those who are familiar with me know me being always a tape maniac! Therefore, tapes forever!!!! Even now, always. Yes, when driving, I listen to CDs, because I don’t have a tape player in the car.
Back in the day there was quite common practice for a distro to get a master tape (back then) with a xeroxed covers and selling them, this practice continues with the spreading of CD-R discs. For one, I absolutely don’t mind getting a DIY CD-R release, what’s your opinion about it? Many fans probably shun this, preferring the standard issued CDs…
Not only in the past.It’s still done this way, due to the hight post rates. And yes, I’ve done it as well.Nowadays not as much – first, the post contact is quite restricted due to Covid, and I am not that keen on that, for dubbing tapes or CD-Rs takes too much time. I’m trying to get ready made products in the distro, so I don’t need to make copies of them. Some stuff from the past I have to, though. As for my label, all the CD-Rs I’ve released recently have been made using a company as a profi releases, or I’ve paid someone for its DIY style and dubbing, so I haven’t had to do it and save my time.
Yes, you’re right. Generally speaking, there is a problem with CD-R releases, for people still prefer pressed discs. Sometimes I don’t get it, because some CD-R releases are done such in a professional way that they look better than pressed discs – but yeah, there might be a durability factor in it – pressed CDs should last about 100 years, CD-Rs only half of it!!! Maybe there’s something different! Don’t know, don’t care. I don’t have a problem with CD-Rs. I don’t have a problem with anything!
I have to commend Akné distro for good selection of stuff and fair prices, although the most troublesome part of the trade is ever-growing postage. And, of course, the growing online presence of many releases. How do you view the future of physical releases? Especially as connected to the underground?
I started the distro in 2000 and since then there have been loads of stuff in there.Did you see the current distrolist? It’s about a half of what is has been. About 2 years ago you wouldn’t believe it.About 2 years go about the half of the distro was sold to one guy, and about 6 months ago about 30% of the distro material was sold to a guy from Italy for a very fair price. See, when I have the opportunity, I am getting rid of stuff in distro. I’m not counting people ordering now and then. I’ve used to go with distro to gigs, but even there people are not buying as before and, especially, when you’re an underground-oriented distro. People wanted Slayer, Kreator, simply the bigger bands. The future of physical releases? Speaking for me, I’m limiting it to a minimum. Shame, for there’s nothing better than to have a physical copy in your hand. But this current generation has probably a different opinion and that’s why it is how it is!
The next step for you has been to start your own label, Akné Productions. First, why such a name? I’ve thought it’s some punk/crust/grind distro at first, haha. Why did you start the label and how do you recall its beginnings?
As I’ve said, it went differently. Yes, first the fanzine, but after that the label and then, in the label framework, a distro. About the name? I am sure it has its origin with some gig with guys from Angel´s Decay. The label name looks like a punk distro name…don’t know, I don’t care. I liked it back then and I like it now. I am sure it has some connection to acne pimples on a face – but not because I had them! I was always a handsome boy with a beautiful skin!The beginnings…I’ve mentioned some above. The first issue of pro-tapes, then first pro-CD of Angel´s Decay, later on another batch of those, but on pressed discs, first LP (12” vinyl), other pressed CDs, even later on pro-CD-Rs, DIY CD-Rs, always some tapes, either pro-done or in DIY style. The latest, that was 2 x 7”EP (vinyl) by Grium, then again, some pro-CD-Rs…
You’ve released quite a few releases, currently, if I am not mistaken, about 79 different titles, right? Which one was the best-seller? Is there any release you’ve not satisfied with?
Let me correct you a little. In total, I’ve released 76 releases. The most successful was, by all means, ANGEL´S DECAY CD. First, I’ve released it in 2003 as a profi CD-R release (profi CD-R, profi booklet), later on, in 2005 another batch as a pressed CD, in 2017, again, as a profi CD-R. Even later I’ve done a tape release of the same title. Speaking about tapes, again, ANGEL´S DECAY. Their album “Victims of Belief” was distributed as 600 pro-tapes (pro-printed) and 1600 pro-printed covers + about 250 promo tapes with a xeroxed cover. All releases I’ve done were done because I liked them – I’ve never released something just because, because someone – other than me – wanted it!
What genre(s) you are most comfortable with as a record label owner? Which one you won’t even consider to release?
Death metal is my style absolutely. If you have a look at my releases, death metal is dominant there.
Slowly moving towards to the end of the interview, what’s in the store for Akné Productions for 2021 and beyond? How badly, do you think, will the future of the underground trading/distribution be affected by the Coronavirus’ aftermath?
For 2021 I plan to release a DIY split – I’m not sure about the format, either a tape or CD-R. Should be a 5-way split…I don’t want to say more, as I don’t want to talk about it before it’s done. Covid has halted my activities in a very serious way. It’s true that in those last few years I haven’t been that active in releasing, concentrating more on the distribution and spreading of my releases over the world and to other distros in Slovakia. People have stopped ordering, completely! Before Covid, there were some orders now and then, now there’s basically almost none, or very little! Thankfully, I can say I will survive, for I am not doing it for money, but to enjoy it. Akné Productions it’s not my job, it’s my hobby and I treat it as such..
As for those interested in Slovak scene, what good zines and distros from our beautiful country worth checking would you recommend to our readers? Any bands worth checking?
Surviving, or better to say, resuming their activities, there are only those being here before. I have no idea about anything new. Worthy of mention are the classics: Metal Age Productions, Hexencave Production, Slovak Metal Army/Immortal Soul Production, Hirax Records, Mor Ho Productions! Fanzines? From the top of my head I don’t even know if there’s anything being published at the moment – Immortal Souls, ocassionally – Juro Haríň from Immortal Souls published a free newspaper (they were available for free in rock clubs in Slovakia and Czech Republic) – but it’s publishing has been halted by Covid. I’m thinking of some names, but I know those zines are finished too, so I’m not gonna name them.What’s being published are probably just pro-magazines like Pařát, or licenced Rock Hard published by Metal Age.
And the last one – obligatory – question…Any final words/message to our readers?
Thanks, Rudolf, for this interview and the interest. I owe you, man! Maniacs, support the underground distros/labels/zines. All the best to all of you, let’s see this COVID madness is finished and life’s getting back to normal.
Many thanks for your time doing this intie, bro!!!! Stay brutal!
Contact (ask for a distrolist): firstname.lastname@example.org