Michael Siegel is about Metal Storm Records – Part I
The beginning of the indie labels of the 80’s started with Roadrunner, Rave-On, Neat, Megaforce and Metal Blade. As the scene became bigger and a lot of bands started popping up worldwide, the indie labels started forming as well. New Renaissance, Azra, Black Dragon, Combat, Earthshaker, Atom-H – the list goes on. After a successful discover on Facebook I got in touch with Michael Siegel, who told everything about Metal Storm Records.
Mike, thanks a lot for accepting my interview request and be welcome on our Rattle Inc. online magazine! How are you doing?
I’m doing well. I have not heard the name Metal Storm in a long time. When you contacted me, I felt alot of nostalgia and an appreciation that the metal community is still active and interested.
What’s up to you these days?
I married with 2 teenage boys. I’m a firefighter in Northern California for the last 25 years. It’s all good. My boys have seen more live music than most kids their age. They got to see Motorhead and Iron Maiden. I took them to see D.R.I. and Hirax and we hung out with Katon (W. De Pena, Hirax singer). Katon used to drive us to shows in my mom’s car when we were my kids age. It was cool for him to meet my kids and tell the old stories.
Are you still in the metal circuit?
I’m not really in the metal circuit anymore except as a fan. I go to shows, I play guitar but I’m not “in the scene” so to speak. I am going to retire from the fire department next year. So I will have more time and have dreamed of getting back into it in some capacity.
Do you show an interest in what’s going on in the metal scene these days?
I love the current metal scene. Sonoma County has an awesome young metal scene with lots of gigs and new bands. A local promoter recently released a free CD complilation of local Metal and Thrash music. It was awesome and inspiring.
What kind of materials do you listen to on regularly basis?
I have always listened to all music depending on my mood. I still listen to metal and thrash. I have always loved punk and still seek out punk shows and love to see the old punk bands still going strong. I took the family to see the Descendents at the Warfield. It was great. But I also listen to RB, old Metal/Rock, and some more eclectic shit, too. There is very little music I don’t appreciate.
I would ask you about the history of Metal Storm Records, are you ready to answer my qustions?
I can’t wait to relive the glory days.
At which point did you discover metal? What were the first acts, records that impressed you a lot?
My friend Vadim Rubin and I bonded over our love for Metal in the Early 80’s. We were 13 when we met and immediately became good friends. Metal was new back then. Our first concert that his dad drove us to was Def Leppard. It was awesome. We got really into discovering new bands. I bought Kill ‘Em All when it first came out never having heard of Metallica. It just looked like it would be a cool record. Of course we were blown away. We started writing to bands and collecting demos. We met Katon De Pena of Hirax and started hanging out and going to shows with him. He was so cool to hang out with us considering he was 7 years older then we were. Also Gene Hoglan lived next door to Vadim. So we hung out there alot. His sister was pretty into the scene and they both turned us on to alot of bands. At one point we started a magazine called Brain Damage Death Rag. We interviewed Slayer at Gene’s house. I still have the cassette recording of the interview. It’s a little embarrassing to listen to since I don’t think my balls had dropped yet.
When and from where did the idea come to establish a record company?
We had quite a collection of demos sent to us from all over the world. The guys from Hell Hammer sent us stuff, Overkill from the East Coast sent us stuff. We saw what Brian Slagel was doing with Metal Blade records and we decided we should do it, too.
Was Metal Storm an independent label or was it a sublabel of Azra Records?
I can’t remember how we got in contact with Dave Richards of Azra Records. Basically this was a guy that loved music. His record collection was insane. We had the idea of Metal Storm Records. He thought that was a great idea and drew up contracts. They were actually less than a page long and said if we made any money we would split into thirds. That was it. We put out the word and started collecting demos and contacting bands and Dave got the records produced. I’m not sure where the money came from. It fell apart when it came to marketing and distibution. I think you had a record label created by pure fans with not much business sense. Of course Vadim and myself were only 13 years old.
Was your goal with the label to help young, emerging bands and to take part in the underground scene?
Yes. Our goal was to put our insane and powerful music. If either one of us was musician we would have been in a band. Later Vadim became quite a good drummer and was in several bands. I started playing guitar when I was 40 so the band thing hasn’t happened for me yet. We really wanted to put out music that was true to the Metal Spirit. FAST, LOUD and POWERFUL. And even though we were not financially successful. Our 3 bands that we produced are the the highest caliber.
Would you say, that Metal Storm was focusing, specialising on thrash bands?
We signed Dark Angel, Overkill and Dissension. Dark Angel was over the top speed metal. No holds barred, insane, crushing and heavy. Overkill the same Heavy Soul Bomb music. Both bands have stood the test of time and are reverred to this day. Dissension was straight up punk rock, fast mean from the heart. They are also still touring. I wish I had a better business sense and could have done better by the bands and their future success. But we put out killer records.
Vadim Rubin was the co-founder of the label. How did you get in touch with him?
We were buddies. It was a team effort. We were just doing what we loved.
Were you familiar with the Brain Damage fanzine, he was earlier involved in?
That was our baby, too. As I mentioned earlier. About that time we got into a little arguement. I don’t remember what it was about. But I guess you could say we drifted apart. He still used some of my pics. Our other buddy Ron Nieto took over writing some articles. He still used the interview with Slayer, too. That was our idea. I probably should have been less of a dick and stayed with it. It was a great magazine.
Did you have any experiences considering the music industry, money, financial things etc.?
I was so young that I really didn’t have any negative experiences. I wish I would have stayed in the industry and made it a career. Maybe next year when I retire from the fire department I’ll get back into it. Hopefully with my new band Fallen Heroes if there’s anyone out there that wants to join my band. I need a drummer, a singer, a bass player and a guitar player. They have to not mind playing with a mediocre second guitar player that writes awesome songs.
How did the whole story of Metal Storm begin to start with?
That was it. Like I said before. Just two friends trying to get pure soul crushing metal to the masses.
Did you and Vadim run the label or did you have other colleagues/workers, too?
The label consisted of Vadim, myself and Dave Richards. Dave was the adult with the money. Me and Vadim were 13 or 14. We found the bands and Dave did the rest.
What was the standard contract that you were offering to the bands?
I have no idea. I hope we did right by them, but I know we didn’t make anyone any money.
How did you pick those bands that you wanted to sign?
Just pure creative inspired music.
What was the criteria exactly?
That and they agreed.
Did the bands send you demos?
So many bands sent us demos. It was awesome to listen to so much music.
Did you see them live?
We got to hang out with Dark Angel. We introduced Gene Hoglan to Dark Angel and he became their drummer. He was an insane drummer and is still a pretty big fixture in certain circles. We hung out with Hirax. Katon was too smart to sign with us. I think he saw our intentions were good but we did not know what we were doing. Dissension was our buddies from High School. They are such and awesome Punk Band. And still playing gigs in Long Beach. They had that punk thrash sound all great musicians and creative songs fast, loud and energetic.
Do you still remember which group you signed first?
Dark Angel was first, then Overkill, then Dissension.
How many albums did you release altogether?
Just 3. One from each band.
Could you speak detailed about them?
Honestly from a fan standpoint. All 3 albums are timeless masterpieces. I’m not just saying that. Listen to them today and you’ll see a creative force that’s still relevant. Dark Angel’s We Have Arrived was 7 songs, all of them classic heavy metal. Not a bad song on it. And insane cover art. Overkill was a 4 song EP. 24 minutes of heart pounding metal. We didn’t have the business sense to take them to the next level. But they have produced something like 18 albums since then. They are a staple of Thrash Metal and inspired a generation. Those guys were one of the bands that put metal on the map.
Dissension was the punkers punk album. It had the moshy baseline along with the trashy insane speed and manic guitar riffs. I have always loved good fast punk rock that I could understand both vocally and musically. Not that pure thrash doesn’t have its place, but Dissension was the band that gave bands like NOFX and RKL a run for their money. All 3 of these bands are still playing and producing music. They are all still cutting edge talent that shapes culture. That says alot for me and Vadim’s taste. We knew how to pick ‘em. We didn’t know what to do with them after that, but we knew the art.
(to be continued)