This has been a rare chance and a great honor for me personally to interview Costa Stoios, a man who needs no introduction to real maniacs. Throughout his activities either with the legendary TALES OF THE MACABRE zine or his Cult Underground label IRON PEGASUS, Costa has been a mentor for many of us during the past 16 years. During an age where Black and Death Metal became well-accepted and commercialized, Costa raised a flag of resistance against the demise of the scene and proposed an alternative path for real maniacs, either by spreading the word for a killer, sinister underground act or by resurrecting obscure recordings of old, legendary acts. Costa has always maintained a low-profile as far as publicity is concerned and it’s a real pity that his voice is not heard very often anymore. But what we have here is a great surprise for real fans, because this is perhaps one of the most extensive interviews ever with Costa, the madman from Koblenz, so read on!!!
Greetings Costa, I hope you’re doing well! I really hope you’re in good mood to answer some of my questions. This will be a trip back in time -and not only- so you will have to remove some dust from your memory. Perhaps it was not a good idea to accept to do this interview after all? Hehe
"Hi Manolis, all ok here and with you in Athens? You want my mind to go back in time? Hope I didn’t lose too much of my memory after all the countless Metal battles ‘n’ parties that I had to survive, hehe"
I know you’re involved in the Metal world for the past 25 years, starting during the mid-80s with the classic Hard Rock / Heavy Metal bands. Which are your memories from your first steps in the Metal world? Do you remember, which was the first Metal album you ever listened to and which was the first LP you ever bought?
"Well, before I got into harder music it was radio music that I listened to as a kid and young teenager… you know, pop and rock stuff etc. Bands like SCORPIONS brought me into harder music. My first album (as a tape copy) was "Tokyo Tapes" by SCORPIONS, and my first album on vinyl was "Live After Death" from IRON MAIDEN, because I saw their ‘2 Minutes To Midnight’ clip on TV and was totally obsessed by this song and band. I had no idea about what record I should buy, so I thought "Live After Death" was a good choice since it was a double album, included the song I wanted, and it had a total kick ass coverartwork. Since that day I was totally addicted to Heavy Metal, poor parents of mine and neighbours, too, hehe. For a teenager, this was the entrance to a completely new fascinating world. I played "Live After Death" soooo often, my copy now looks as if a convoy of tanks rolled over it."
After your first couple of years of involvement with the Hard Rock / Heavy Metal bands, you started moving onwards for a quest to discover the underworld with all the great extreme and obscure bands of the time. What made you obsessed with the underground scene back then and what event (or perhaps which band?) made you to want to dig even harder the underground and go even further down into the abyss?
"First I got to know the more "mainstream" kind of bands like METALLICA, OZZY, VAN HALEN, KISS and then it became harder with SLAYER, KREATOR, AGENT STEEL, EXCITER. I think almost everybody back then started with "normal" Metal before he got into the harder stuff. Soon I was looking for faster, heavier material, bands that sounded rawer. There was no particular band that made me thirsty for harder stuff, it just happened step by step. I think the "Speed Kills I" LP was an important LP for me to check out harder bands. Forces like SLAYER, VENOM, KREATOR, etc became my faves, you know, the big names of raw Thrash. Also back then more "unkown" bands like HOBBS’, THE UNSANE, INFERNAL MAJESTY, MESSIAH, etc truly kicked ass. Speed and wickedness was the ultimate target for me back then. Unfortunately it didn’t take long until Thrash Metal became more and more polished by the Bay Area / ANTHRAX / HELLOWEEN kind of sound which just wasn’t my style, it didn’t have the dark malicious energy of the SLAYER / VENOM kind Thrash bands and the image kind of sucked as well. This made me check out underground zines like ROCK HARD (back then black / white, except for the cover / backcover), HORROR INFERNAL, METAL WARRIORS (Ger), etc because they still wrote about new raw demo bands, harder bands, and they interviewed musicians who you rarely found in mainstream magazines. In the 80s I was a big fan of RAZOR, this for instance made me bought the BLACKTHORN Mag from Denmark, cause it featured an interview with the band and I never saw one before except for one in German Metal Hammer side-mag called OVERKILL (and keep in mind that RAZOR already released 4 albums and one mini album till 1987!). The big press pretty much ignored or even tore apart those type of bands. And BLACKTHORN introduced more unknown bands to me, you could read about "this must be killer"-kind of bands like MASSACRE (US), POISON, etc etc… so it all went step by step. Those underground mags made me hungry for forces like MORBID ANGEL, PESTILENCE, DESEXULT, MINOTAUR, etc cause they were more influenced by the first generation of Black / Death / Speed Metal instead of "Mosh" Metal. I ordered some demos by sending money through the mail, and back then the US$ was bloody expensive, so it was a big sacrifice for somebody who still went to school. And when after some weeks finally a tape arrived, it was like Christmas for a 15-year-old teenager who grew up in a small conservative village with no Metalheads whatsoever. Totally different times. No internet, only very few friends who liked the same music… this made me fanatic!"
What are your memories from your tape trading days? How can you describe the feeling of getting in your hands a very special, "unknown" demo or rehearsal that a good friend or tape trader suggested? Was there a magic in retrieving a very special recording that blew your head off with its intensity, energy and power? Wasn’t there a "mystique" in listening to something that very few knew about, but was totally worth it? Have you been following the South American demo scene back then, or did you focus on the European and Central / North American Scene mostly? So many bands from all over the globe it would be difficult to catch up after a point, right?
"Sometimes I bought tapes from tape traders, like demos and live stuff from DEATH, MESSIAH, HELLHAMMER, the CORONER demo, etc etc…. some were really bad sounding, but it was exciting anyway to listen to the raw energy of the bands back then. I wanted to know more about those bands apart for the "regular" releases. Real raw sound from the dungeon. Sometimes this has more "magic" than a superb studio production. I wasn’t a tape trader that much, I only used to trade some tapes and stuff with a guy from Hamburg. He had a small advert in ROCK HARD Mag where he offered a RAZOR live tape, so he was my man and I contacted him. We exchanged tapes, so both of us could listen to bands we only knew from magazines. It was cool. We helped each other. I lost a bit of interest in the current scene Metal music when my type of Thrash was kind of dead around 1989, but it didn’t take long to reanimate my interest when lots of new dark Death Metal bands started to release records. Wicked Thrash à la old SLAYER, INFERNAL MAJESTY, HOBBS, old KREATOR, THE UNSANE, etc was my love, that music was really dead at the end of the 80s, most of the old bands either ceased to exist or wimped out. But then Death Metal was unchained from the underground and continued where bands like POSSESSED, DEATH, CELTIC FROST, etc stopped in the mid 80s. This was really cool. Just take OBITUARY’s "Slowly We Rot", what a monster album back then. Same for AUTOPSY’s "Severed Survival", ASPHYX’s "The Rack", the MORGOTH mini albums, first TIAMAT, etc etc.. Sure the old days had were more "mystique", that’s why the 2nd wave of Black Metal was so successful and popular. When you have to invest alot of time and energy in order to get the music and info you like, just because the mainstream did not care about it (still too busy with Hardcore and Hair Metal), then you appreciate it much more. Nowadays it is just simple music download click on the internet, it became sooooo easy. About the Brazilian scene: honestly I didn’t follow it in the 80s. I know that some mad guys had formed bands like VULCANO, SEXTRASH and SARCOFAGO who got really bad press in the mainstream media but those maniac(os) looked kind of mega-cool with all the spikes, leather and nails (something that was"out of date" in Europe after 1987), but my budget was too small as a teenage headbanger to buy those expensive imports, I was happy enough that I could buy an album from a US or European (underground) band instead. I think not many people here had a clue about what was going on beyond Europe and North America. The Brazilian bands I got to know early 90s when someone said that the guy in SARCOFAGO left SEPULTURA in the early days because they were too wimpy for him, hahaha. That made me curious and I finally had to check ’em out. And then SEXTRASH was a MUST-HAVE. Not only because SARCOFAGO’s old drummer played here, but also because of the coverartwork of "Sexual Carnage", if you know what I mean. This was cool, it was like an old SLAYER promo-photo when they still wore paint."
After experiencing the intensity of bands such as VENOM, SLAYER, HELLHAMMER, MANTAS / DEATH, MASSACRE, MASTER / DEATHSTRIKE, SLAUGHTER, MESSIAH, HOBBS’, INFERNAL MAJESTY etc how was it to see the evolution of the scene and the "rise" of Death Metal into commercialization? Was it "frustrating" to see old underground legends like MORBID ANGEL or SEPULTURA being featured in MTV or you did not care? Have you been disappointed by the evolution of some of the bands like OBITUARY and DEATH for example so you had to look further back to the roots, the ’80s?
"First of all it was kind of sad that the old SLAYER – inspired type of Thrash Metal was no more. No band of the 90s could ever replace bands like old SLAYER, MESSIAH, HELLHAMMER or SLAUGHTER. But it was good to see new dark heavy and brutal bands rising from the underground, playing some real kick ass music. When Death Metal became really popular it was good, why not, but Death Metal had the same fate as Thrash had before… the dark evil bands either disappeared or changed their style. As soon as bands became popular and business took control, then it went downhill, most of the times. Only very few bands stayed true to their sound, like ASPHYX and MORBID ANGEL. For me it was no problem that Death Metal clips were shown on MTV, ’cause some of the clips were really cool and of course you were happy enough that it was possible to see ANY kind of Metal on TV anyway. No matter if Death Metal or just Metal clips from IRON MAIDEN or OZZY. The only thing that wasn’t always cool was the bad quality of some of the Death Metal clips… fast cuts that made your stomage turn around, like the clips from MASSACRE, BOLT THROWER, ENTOMBED, etc. I am more into clips like VENOM’s ‘Nightmare’ or MORBID ANGEL ‘Blessed Are The Sick’. Those were really cool."
You are one of those people that have been actively involved in the underground during the late ’80s and early ’90s. You have also being following the so called "revival" of the ancient-sounding bands from the very beginning. Which are your memories when you got to experience the reincarnation of the spirit of the ’80s in the first recordings from bands like SAMAEL, MASTER’S HAMMER, NECROMANTIA, DARKTHRONE and IMMORTAL (to name few) that returned to the old "spirit" of Black Metal but still played in a unique and different way from ordinary Death Metal bands?
"Until 1993 I was "only" a fan (well, I still am, haha). I had plans to do a zine before, but it never really happened. The most important "back to the roots" kind of album for me was the first BURZUM record and MAYHEM’s "Live In Leipzig". Especially BURZUM blew me away. In the beginning I thought the vocals were kind of weak, you couldn’t understand a word. But musically it was very impressive, cause it was simple but so effective at the same time. A total exception in a time where Death Metal became more complicated, technical and, even worse, infected by Hardcore music. Don’t forget that bands like PANTERA, BIOHAZARD, etc were really huge back then and also influenced the Death / Thrash scene then… I really couldn’t stand that style and still can’t. People always tend to glorify the old times, I am one of them I must admit, but there were A LOT of crap bands around as well… luckily we forgot about them very quick. So BURZUM came and blew me away… and back then it wasn’t a political message behind it, it was just cold Black Metal. Then DARKTHRONE… after "Soulside Journey" it was a total shock to listen to DARKTHRONE in a total BATHORY / CELTIC FROST style. First SAMAEL, the first BEHERIT, … a very unusual record, an amateurish but magic album. The NECROMANTIA / VARATHRON LP was a black wind from Greece… same as "Passage To Arcturo" from ROTTING CHRIST and their killer EP with MONUMENTUM. It was different than the BATHORY-inspired North European stuff, but still magic. All of a sudden, a lot of new bands emerged from the underground and brought back a feeling and spirit that wasn’t heard for loooong time. In contrary to most Death Metal bands, the Black Metal hordes didn’t care for a high class polished production or technical playing, they cared for magical riffs, atmosphere and feeling instead. It was an old but very new sound at the same time. The underground was boiling, and lots of maniacs like myself wanted to be part of it. The mainstream media and people did not understand what this new wave was all about… just read some of the reviews in the established press back then and you’ll know what I mean. Those guys weren’t ready for the Black Metal renaissance at all, and this was the ultimate proof that this music it was truely coming from an extreme new underground movement."
I know there are some really unique gigs you witnessed back in the early 90s, so I wanted to ask you which are your memories from seeing bands such as SAMAEL live back in the day performing such classics like ‘Into The Pentagram’ or ‘Sleep Of Death’ or witnessing ROTTING CHRIST, BLASPHEMY and IMMORTAL in their "Fuck Christ" tour in 1993? These are two events that I know you attended, but can you tell us any other unique underground gig that you remember with nostalgia nowadays and left a mark inside you forever?
"Well, my living place always has been far away from all the standard concert places, I always had to drive long distances to go to gigs. SAMAEL I think I saw first time before they got their keyboarder. They were a VERY serious live band. No Black Metal Posers unlike many others, they were really serious about their stuff. One of the best Black Occult Metal bands back then on stage. "Fuck Christ Tour"… man, that was exciting. The name was really really silly, but the package killed. Three great bands on tour. I was mainly interested in ROTTING CHRIST then. BLASPHEMY I already saw before in Frankfurt with GORGUTS. IMMORTAL were the big stars that night, think 80% of the people came to see the tour only because of IMMORTAL, and indeed they did an impressive gig then. Abbath in total Cronos / Gene Simmons style posing, playing in a total small, hot and smelly club in Cologne. Really cool."
Was the fascination with the revival of the ancient sound that initially made you desire to start the legendary -by now- TALES OF THE MACABRE fanzine? The scene was really boiling back then, like a volcano that was ready to explode but what did you have in mind before you decided to start a fanzine back then? Was it just a desire to spread to the word to the underground maniacs? Which fanzines do you consider that had the most profound influence on TALES OF THE MACABRE and which fanzines were the ones you considered as most impressive when you first got into the underground? Which fanzine writers / editors -back from the day- did you consider as your "mentors" (perhaps) that influenced your writing?
"The idea to do a zine I already had some years before TALES OF THE MACABRE. But when Black Metal had its renaissance, I noticed that forgotten dark bands like VENOM, BATHORY, HELLHAMMER; etc all of a sudden were the main influence of a new scene. TALES OF THE MACABRE should be the zine that was linked to both the new generation and the old bands, the spirit should live on. That’s why you only saw old bands on the main pages… CELTIC FROST (HELLHAMMER), SLAYER, BATHORY, VENOM…. bands I will always love! Also take the choice of the name. You know where it comes from. TALES OF THE MACABRE also was more about music than image, I didn’t like mags who only asked about attitudes, satanism, etc etc…. I was and am a Metalhead because I love Metal, simple as that, so that’s what the zine was all about. My mentors? Hmmm… I loved HAMMER OF DAMNATION Zine from Finland, also MORTICIAN from the Netherlands plus still the old fanzines from the 80s I had still stuck in my mind. I loved their enthusiasm!"
Everybody knows that TALES OF THE MACABRE has been absolutely dedicated to the values and principles of 80s Metal. The featured bands mostly hailed those values and in one way or another shared the spirit of the fanzine. TALES OF THE MACABRE had a balance in its content, in the sense that on one hand you featured new underground bands, whereas on the other hand the old grandmasters of the genre were honored. For many people, including myself, TALES OF THE MACABRE was the most important connecting link between the 80s and that point in time back then. It was not just the content, but the aesthetics, the "do-it-yourself" mentality and the real principles and attitude.
"Thanks for the words. Well, what can I say? Things aren’t that different with IRON PEGASUS. It is the audio version of TALES OF THE MACABRE zine."
During the course of years you evolved both as a fan as an editor and that is evident in the TALES OF THE MACABRE. Although you maintained the same principles and attitude, eventually you became even more distant from the scene that was flooded with tons of Norse bands that were totally unoriginal. Unlike most people that just complained against the evolution of the "scene", you raised your banner and managed to maintain a positive attitude by refusing to give up the weapons. You wanted to present more obscure, underrated bands from countries that were not popular back then and not many supported.
"Norse bands were ruling the scene. Some real killer bands came from Norway, no doubt about that at all, and the entire scene was focusing on the North. Then, as a commercial result, every new Norwegian band got signed right away and sold like hell, no matter whether they were unique or just a copy of another band. It all became very mainstream and naturally quality was decreasing. I thought that there are more bands existing outside Scandinavia that perhaps would deserve some more attention. So as an underground zine it was my job to dig out those bands and try to promote them. I mean, that’s what a real fanzine is all about… it is not about the mainstream but about bands that you cannot find in most of the other magazines. That’s why I started buying zines myself, wanted to read about the bands that I couldn’t find anywhere else. My friend King Wolle was totally into obscure, mainly South American bands, and I told him to do a cool zine exclusively dealing with those bands that really weren’t known at all, he liked the idea and created DESECRATION OF VIRGIN Zine. It was the total opposite of every other zine back then. But it worked well and I am sure this helped alot of bands and also inspired other people to do the same. Take LEGION OF DEATH Records, I am not sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Shaxul (label owner) got the idea of doing a label that is dedicated to exotic Metal bands from a zine like DESECRATION OF VIRGIN. As for TALES OF THE MACABRE, I always tried to have a good mix of bands from around the globe."
Some reasons that I know that caused the end of TALES OF THE MACABRE, was first that you wanted to concentrate on your own label, IRON PEGASUS Records and the second (and perhaps most important?) reason was the demise of the scene to a point where you ended up liking mostly those bands that have been in some way or another part of your label. I also remember you telling me also that the coming of the internet stole all the mystique and obscurity from the underground scene and that somehow played a big role. Do you want to comment on that?
"The reason why I stopped the magazine was… I was running out of ideas. I did most of the stuff I wanted to do and some bands I interviewed several times already. Plus, when IRON PEGASUS was founded, I didn’t want people to think that I am using the magazine only to promote the label. And this would have been the case, cause I am the same guy with the same musical taste. Lots of bands that you saw in the magazine later appeared on IRON PEGASUS. And yeah, later the internet took away all the mystique and exclusivity of presenting new underground bands. It was almost impossible with "first interview ever" kind of stories like I did with WARHAMMER, IRONSWORD, DEKAPITATOR, etc back then…. so I had to say "that’s it". It was fun, it was a nice era, but it is over. Compared to nowadays, the TALES OF THE MACABRE era was like the "stone age"."
Everybody knows that IRON PEGASUS started when you wanted to support METALUCIFER. Which are your memories from those days when you decided to start a label, choose a name (by the way, who helped you come up with the label’s name?). How did you feel when the boxes came from the factory and you took out from the box the first METALUCIFER CD and check on the spine the I.P.001 code? Was it a magical moment for you like when you first hold in your hands the first issue of TALES OF THE MACABRE? Which were the first reactions you received back then when you attempted to release something as risky as METALUCIFER considering that the scene was not perhaps ready for such an unexpected strike?
"The name originally should have been "Pegasus Records", but then I saw a 70s Rock LP from a label with the same name. So I added "Iron" to it, cause I already announced the METALUCIFER album on flyers on "Pegasus Records". The name came just because I like that winged horse idea. I didn’t want a name like a cliché Metal label, so I came up with "Pegasus" which later turned into "Iron Pegasus". METALUCIFER’s "Heavy Metal Drill" was like a fresh wind back then when I received it from Gezol of SABBAT. People were very much focused on evil topics and image related things, so METALUCIFER came and did the exact opposite: delivered nothing but pure old Heavy Metal in the early IRON MAIDEN style, with crazy Japanese vocals added and a more than strange kind of artwork concept. This was real honest material, you could hear that the guys really played this music for passion, cause this type of style was absolutely dead around 1997 / 1998. I liked it so much that I thought I should give that unknown band some extra support and release the album here in Germany. That was how the label was born. The CDs I had to pick up at another label who arranged the pressing for me. I drove with my old rusty Renault 4 to the guy and picked up the CDs and was ready to strike, "Heavy Metal Drill" was ready to invade Germany and beyond. Sure it was a risk to release such an unusual album, especially from a Japanese band. I got lots of strange reactions, believe me. But I was convinced that the music was good enough to prevail. And looking back nowadays, I honestly think that METALUCIFER’s "Heavy Metal Drill" was one of the most important albums that has re-animated the interest in true old style Heavy Metal again in the underground. New bands all of a sudden started to play 80s Metal again, using the word "Heavy Metal" again in songtitles… and I think nobody has done it in the 90s except for few bands like MANOWAR. The song ‘Heavy Metal Hunter’ has really become a classic and inspired many bands."
You are a tremendous SABBAT diehard, but I really wonder if you can put into words what makes SABBAT so special for you? Do you feel that the band’s origin was important for your addiction to them or was it only the music and nothing else? May it be that SABBAT is one of the oldest Black Metal bands? Did you expect back in the early days of IRON PEGASUS that SABBAT would reach such popularity from underground maniacs and will reach the status they have nowadays? It seems that almost every underground fan is praising SABBAT these days
"SABBAT are a special band, because they were and still are one of the last bands of the 80s who still kept the black flame of VENOM, old SLAYER, etc burning "non stop" during all the years. They are faithful to their style since the very beginning. When Black Metal in the late 80s got ridiculed and called "out of date", SABBAT still played it. I remember the old reviews here… SABBAT always got ripped apart. Also, I like SABBAT because musically they are very traditional and have a perfect mix of Black and Heavy Metal. Dark evil riffs crossed with NWoBHM kind of guitar solos… a mix that not many bands play or can play, cause to play these kind of solos who have to have a bluesy guitarstyle… something 95% of the Black / Death Metal bands do not play. I know that some people do have problems with SABBAT’s vocals. But, I mean, at least they are unique and nobody else sounds like Gezol. When I listen to songs like ‘Rage Of Mountains’ I think nobody can do it better than him, hehe. But musically every serious fan of VENOM, BATHORY; etc should love SABBAT. I ultimately thought that SABBAT should be a band to be signed by a European label when I saw them play live for the first time in Europe. Think it was 1997, in Geleen in the Netherlands, a tour that N.E.P. from Germany organised. It was a magic show to me. They were REAL Black Heavy Metal, not a bunch of posers with silly paint! I couldn’t imagine that SABBAT will be known and popular one day. ’cause back when we did the first albums, not really many people cared about them, everybody was still busy listening to northern Black Metal. Nobody was waiting for a Japanese band. But you see, trends come and go, SABBAT prevailed and are stronger than ever. Wait for their new studioalbum "Sabbaptized" to be out this spring."
You have also been a great supporter of ZEMIAL and AGATUS during an age that not many cared about these great bands. Nowadays, most ZEMIAL and AGATUS items are considered as extremely hard to find rarities that underground fanatics hunt down like crazy. What do you remember nowadays from your first contacts with these bands, the features in TALES OF THE MACABRE and how important was it for you to release their material under the IRON PEGASUS flag?
"Yes, that’s true, I believed in those bands when they were only known to some die-hard fans back then. As said before, most guys were still very busy listening to Scandinavian or Scandinavian sounding music back then and were not really caring about bands from other parts of the world. But I felt that these two bands had potential and it was a challenge to send them into the battle, I believed in the musical quality. And as you can see, the bands managed to establish their names. Great to see that these releases are considered classics nowadays for some people. I am not really sure how it went, I think ZEMIAL got in touch with me, when they sent me their "Necrolatry" demo. With AGATUS it was different. I found their semi-official CD (the one with the black and white colour) that was sold for real cheap prices here, and really liked their ROTTING CHRIST type of fast Black Metal, the heavy use of synths and Eskarth’s aggressive vocals. For me it was one of the best Black Metal albums from Greece and thought that more people should know it plus the original coloured artwork was damn impressive and I was sure it would look cool on a Picture Disc and it certainly did."
I know you’re a big BATHORY fan and I am not surprised that you supported the German Black Metal band MAYHEMIC TRUTH. Do you still think that they are perhaps one of the best German Black Metal ever? I think it’s a pity that they are not active anymore but their reincarnation as MORRIGAN is definitely worth it. Have you been interested in releasing some MORRIGAN material under IRON PEGASUS?
"It was DESASTER’s guitarist Infernal who played their "Demo 1996" to me and as a BATHORY fan I was really surprised by the quality. Yes, I think this demo was one of the finest German Black Epic Metal releases from the 90s. The feeling of the old and also epic BATHORY crossed with EMPEROR type of 90s Black Metal and vocals, a good mix. About MORRIGAN: It was clear that BARBARIAN WRATH RECORDS (the new name for N.E.P.) would take care of it since the very beginning."
Let’s go now to some bands from your label that are more like close friends of yours… and let’s begin with DESASTER. How did you feel when you first managed to sign the band after they were no longer part of MERCILESS Records? Was it a big step forward for the label to sign such a great band that had already released some killer releases like "A Touch Of Medieval Darkness" for instance? Also it is well known that "Tyrants Of The Netherworld" has been the best selling release from your label, I wonder how you felt when you first got to listen to the final version of the album. Was it a special moment for your and could you foresee the record’s potential?
"DESASTER and I knew each other for many years, we are more or less from the same area, our paths crossed quite often, we had the same interest in music and had the same metallic roots and faves, especially with guitarist Infernal. One day they asked me if we should do the 10 inch with PENTACLE who were good friends as well. Sure I was interested. We did the crushing DESASTER / PENTACLE 10 inch which was a good start and then we attacked with "Tyrants Of The Netherworld" after the band decided to leave MERCILESS RECORDS and look for a new label. This album was a milestone. Before the band recorded the album, we drove to the Studio near Stuttgart where the guys did a test recording of the song ‘Hell-Born’, just to see if the studio is good. I knew some of the album’s songs like ‘Victim Of My Force’ before the band recorded them, ’cause they already played some stuff at live gigs when they did the soundcheck. Also I did have to write lyrics for ‘Sworn To Avenge’ back then which was great fun. I got the song as an instrumental rehearsal recording and I sat down with Okkulto and talked about the lyric’s rhythm, how it all should sound. I know DESASTER since late 1993, and followed their way since that time, so it was really great to work with them for the albums. I am not sure, but I think it was their old vocalist Okkulto who convinced the other guys to release the album on IRON PEGASUS after we did the 10 inch album, but you have to ask him. We all were young, all hungry and ready to kill, hehe. And we both are still here, bit older and wiser (hopefully, hehe), still delivering the goods."
It seems that although DESASTER have moved to METAL BLADE, they still do their vinyl on IRON PEGASUS. Is there a special deal that the DESASTER guys did with METAL BLADE so that you have the exclusive rights for almost all of their vinyl pressings or is it simply that METAL BLADE does not care to release some DESASTER releases on vinyl (well, I doubt it, because METAL BLADE would love to cash in from the whole vinyl mania…)
"I always told the guys that if a real big label knocks at their door to sign them, they should not hesitate to go for it. The funny thing with METAL BLADE is that many years ago I sent them a promo CD (behalf of the band) of the "Stormbringer" mini album when it was released, just to see if they were interested to sign DESASTER for an album. But METAL BLADE replied that they weren’t into this "old type" of Black Thrash. Well, some years later their view on this obviously changed. I am glad for the band that they are on METAL BLADE, ’cause they can do good promotion and have a strong distribution. Also, I can imagine that it feels good for DESASTER to be on a label whose name can be found on the first SLAYER albums, too. Yeah, I think DESASTER only do the CD with METAL BLADE. That’s part of their deal, as far I as understand. For DESASTER this was a clever move… METAL BLADE uses their mainstream channels for the CD distribution while the vinyl still gets spreaded through the underground that made DESASTER the band they are today. Of course I think it is really nice of the guys that they did the vinyls with me. I think they trust me that the releases come out in a good and serious way. Just wait till you see the SABBAT / DESASTER EP."
Let’s move to perhaps the most special (for me at least) band of your catalog… which is none other than Dutch Ancient Death Metal gods PENTACLE. I know you have a long lasting, strong friendship, how did it evolve? Friendship aside, how do you feel to have in your label such a unique band that is able to combine all the great elements of the old masters but still sound fresh and unique with lots of personality? I think the split release along PENTACLE and DESASTER was a killer move and remains a classic release for fans of both bands. By the way, which were your first reactions when you got to listen to "Under The Black Cross"? It’s so bad that Mike got injured and he cannot play guitar anymore… but I am sure Alex will carry the heavy burden with skill from now on. Can you please make Wannes, Alex and Mark to release some more material soon? Hehe
"PENTACLE right now are one of the most unique and heaviest old underground-sounding Death Metal bands from Europe. You saw them live, so you know what I am talking about. Perhaps you have to ask Wannes, I am not sure how we agreed to do "Under The Black Cross". I think it was a simple thing like "let’s do it"?! Perhaps that’s why I cannot remember, haha. DAMNATION RECORDS, the band’s old label, was no more, so PENTACLE were looking for a label and Wannes and I always were in good contact since TALES OF THE MACABRE issue one in 1993. For me it was an honour to do a record with friends like PENTACLE. First of all, they deliver the goods for sure and I rarely do Death Metal, so if I do Death Metal, it only has to be real kick ass bands, like PENTACLE, SADISTIC INTENT and MORTEM. My first reaction when I heard the album? Heavy! PENTACLE has ever since been a "grower" for me. When I listen to the songs for the first time, I have to concentrate, cause they don’t have these ‘Smoke On The Water’ – kind of easy riffs as you know, hehe… After a few spins I start to understand the morbid riffing. Those are the LPs which last longest! Right now I am talking to Wannes to get PENTACLE "back to the weapons". So, let’s see what happens, but I am positive that they will forge some fine steel soon. Too bad that Mike is not playing anymore, he was a great guitarist, always enjoyed watching him on stage. Also, he is a nice guy. His brother Alex does a great job as well, and I am sure he has some more aces up his sleeves when it comes to new ideas for songwritings…. and as you have heard yourself, even as a trio PENTACLE are heavy as fuck!"
Talking about Death Metal masters, SADISTIC INTENT’s "Resurrection Of The Ancient Black Earth" on LP was a major achievement for IRON PEGASUS. Perhaps that’s the rarest IRON PEGASUS vinyl that people nowadays spend a small fortune to get. How did you get the idea to press the "Ancient Black Earth" tracks on vinyl with the bonus songs? How did you manage to make the Cortez brothers agree, has it been an easy agreement? You even managed to release the "Morbid Faith" 7”, that’s something not any other label has achieved with SADISTIC INTENT (not even their own hehe…). Did you remember how difficult it was to sell your copies back then? If the band ever releases new material (we can only dream about that…) will it be under your flag?
"Nowadays SADISTIC INTENT are a total CULT band. When I released the album on LP, they still were quite underground and I didn’t sell out the LPs fast. But it was before eBay and all the internet madness. Only guys who were REALLY into the music bought an LP and only one copy and not like these days, where people buy 5 copies to re-sell them later on! Yeah, it was easy back then. We agreed and attacked!!! We knew eachother from the TALES OF THE MACABRE days. A re-press…..? Usually I am not a big fan to re-press it. But if the band wants to see a re-press no matter what, I’d do it before another label would do it, but only IF they want a pre-press badly. You see… a wanker has already bootlegged one side of the record on LP, just to cash in…. those bootleggers kind of force labels and bands to re-do the stuff if there is a demand from fans. That’s why we did the CD version… to be sure that nobody will bootleg it. So we better get it out in a nice way for the new fans, high quality for money. And going by reactions, the maniacs really loved it. Sure I’d be interested to do more of SADISTIC INTENT, no doubt about it. Great band! I think that bigger labels will take care of it. IRON PEGASUS has been and will always be a small independent Metal label beyond the mainstream. But let’s see what will happen. Big labels have also big egos and they sometimes underestimate the smaller ones, so… who knows… hehe"
Another very important name you have signed is none other than Peruvian Death Metal demons MORTEM. How did you feel to have such a legendary South American act in your label’s catalog? Isn’t MORTEM a very special band? Amduscias and Nebiros must be really dedicated maniacs, right? Any memories from the gig they did with PENTACLE in Germany? Will the next MORTEM album be under your banner or do the MORTEM guys have different plans?
"When you like bands such as POSSESSED, DEATH, old SLAYER and old MORBID ANGEL, you have to love MORTEM! It was great to do the album with those amigos. Their live gigs kicked ass!! I love Nebiros’ Kerry King-type of soloing live and his tremolo attack!!! Those guys play 110% for passion. And I remember HADEZ’ old bassplayer Edgardo being their session 4 string axecutioner on stage and hooter hunter offstage. I hope they will return one day with a new diabolical masterpiece. I have no idea what the band is doing at the moment to be honest. Think their private lives keep them busy right now but this does not mean that MORTEM is dead."
I know you are an ASPHYX diehard fan. I think that it was a great moment in the history of IRON PEGASUS that you managed to release the "Death The Brutal Way" 7” which was the first sign of life for the band after the almighty "On The Wings Of Inferno". I was so much disappointed that the vinyl version of their full-length album was not released under your banner as well because I am sure it would be something special. How do you feel as fan and label owner about the 7inch when you see it as part of your catalog?
"To do the 7 inch was really great, ’cause ASPHYX has always delivered true heavy Death Metal and never wimped out. The EP was done thanks to Wannes, he was the driving force behind it. But just as with SADISTIC INTENT, the first personal contact with ASPHYX was from the TALES OF THE MACABRE days, around 1994. So paths just crossed again with this EP. With this 7"EP the band did a clear statement: "ASPHYX are back!" For me it was more than cool to do it, because I always considered ASPHYX as a stabile faithful force in Death Metal. ASPHYX or SOULBURN, it doesn’t matter. I remember when ASPHYX played in Koblenz and guitarist Eric held high his V Axe and he let it slide slowly to the bottom while Wannes was roaring and Bob pounded his drumkit. That was fuckin’ heavy, man!!! A legendary moment I will never forget. About the LP: the band has a special connection with Party San, so they agreed to do the album on the festival’s own label. Sure I would have liked to do it, but I am already happy enough that I could do the EP."
You have also released the HAIL OF BULLETS promo tracks on vinyl… which means two releases that contained the rotten voice of Martin van Drunen. How did you like the HAIL OF BULLETS promo which sounded old but new at the same time? Was it also a move so that people could get the promo through underground channels because the promo was for sale only through mainstream labels? Or was it just a fan’s move to release it on our beloved vinyl format?
"Again, it was my friend Wannes from PENTACLE who gave me the hint with the promo. Martin van Drunen has always been a beast behind the microphone. And to do this MLP with the same man who put his POSSESSED-like voice on the PESTILENCE demo (with legandary songs such as ‘Fight The Plague’) that I bought from German axeman Randy back then as a teenager, that was pretty cool!
Continuing with legendary figures… you released the magnificent album of AFTER DEATH, the band of Mike Browning (MORBID ANGEL, INCUBUS and NOCTURNUS). Mike’s projects are always important to check and I admit that the "Retronomicon" album was hard to get into musically, but it grew with time. Especially the vinyl version of the album came out excellent and revealed the album in its full glory. Are there any plans to release the next AFTER DEATH album? Could you believe in the beginning of IRON PEGASUS that one day you would be able to release an album featuring someone like Mike Browning? Sounds amazing.
"AFTER DEATH is an awesome band. When you see them live you know what I am talking about. Total mega-professional, and their new axeman Belial’s playing will make watch with your mouth open. At the same time I am aware of the fact that this is no easy-listening type of band which is a bit like a problem these days. AFTER DEATH needs time to grow, like in your case, and not many people have the time. Those who have listened to the album carefully know that this band is special. The release pretty much got ignored by lots of people and labels, but it will be a true classic for sure, there is no doubt about it. And that’s why we did this album. Sure it is great to work with Mike Browning, and not only because he is a true veteran in the occult Death Metal scene and 110% true to his style. He is really down to earth, friendly, beyond rock-stardome and sees things realistic, unlike many other musicians sometimes who think that 100000 clicks on myspace makes them KISS. Let’s see what the future will bring for AFTER DEATH. We are still in good contact and whatever will happen, I wish that AFTER DEATH will get the attention they deserve. Their new songs are killer!!!"
A big chapter in the history of IRON PEGASUS should be dedicated in the killer releases of cult demos on LP and CD from legendary acts such MASSACRE, MESSIAH, POISON and DOLMEN to name few. What fantastic releases full of historical material! Can you please explain why is it so important to release stuff like that which are old and have such a bad quality of sound? Wouldn’t it better to release an album with clear and polished production instead? Hehe… I am joking of course; these recording are without any doubt classics and sound fresh at the same time after so many years – it’s amazing! How difficult was it for you to be able to release such material the way you did? Was it difficult locating the bands and closing the deals? Did you receive some original tapes from the bands so as to be able to come up with the closest sound quality to the originals?
"These demo albums are time documents. MESSIAH I tried to reach many times and finally I was successful and we did the demos on LP and CD, good looking and sounding. Brögi is a super-nice guy, and later I also had a bit of contact with Tschösi who was more than friendly. Really superb people. It is a great feeling to release something that you loved as a teenage mulletbanger, so it is very personal for me. Frank Stöver (hi brother!) helped me to get in touch with MASSACRE bassplayer Michael Borders to do their demos on a proper release, with cool photos, etc. And POISON… it was Uli who contacted me because he remembered TALES OF THE MACABRE which was a big compliment for me after all these years. Sure I was interested to do something for mighty POISON! They were the most extreme and fastest German Black Thrash band back in their days. Just listen to songs like ‘Satan Commands’. Even SODOM weren’t that fast and extreme back then! Production doesn’t matter that much as long as the feeling, the spirit and atmosphere is right. Best example is MASSACRE… I personally think the demos blow away "From Beyond", the studio album. And this album has a very thick, strong production. But the demos have more feeling, more anger, more "aaaarrghhhh". You can feel that the guys really wanted it badly!"
You have also released the DESTROYER 666, PAGAN RITES and IMPIETY material that impressed so many underground fans and are considered as hard to find rarities these days. How do you see the evolution of these bands and especially DESTROYER 666 and IMPIETY? Do you like their new material or do you think that their older material cannot be topped? And chance that you will work with any of them in the future, any plans?
"The evolution of these bands… hmm, IMPIETY did quite some changes but tried to get back to the sound of their second album. An extreme band for sure and Shyaithan is a cool tall motherfucker. It is great to see that DESTRÖYER 666 really established as a popular band. They managed to have die hard followers, although they had a break for 6 years (between the "Terror Abraxas" mini album and their new album)… something that a band in the 80s would not have survived. The new album is more technical, filled with lots of details. But that’s the natural development within 6 years of silence. For sure they are an awesome live band, really professional, powerful and catchy. Great to see that they made it. I talked with Mersus some weeks ago, and it was nice to hear that they did such a successful American tour. Don’t know if those bands’ older material can be topped. It depends on who you ask. Some say the old stuff is supreme while others say the new one is the masterpiece. I myself am pretty much satisfied with "Terror Abraxas" which was an outstanding mini-album. Another release with DESTRÖYER 666? There is an idea existing, but I don’t wanna say anything until it is 100% sure. Time will tell. But we are not in a hurry, good things always need a bit longer."
You have some new forces under your banner like TARANIS and DEAD TO THIS WORLD what do you feel makes these hordes special? Especially TARANIS is harder to get into, but still a rather unexpected surprise from the Black Metal world. DEAD TO THIS WORLD is a killer Thrash / Black Metal machine and I think it’s easier for the masses to accept. Which values and potentials do you see in these two bands that makes them special in your ears?
"DEAD TO THIS WORLD for me presents a great mix of Thrash and Black Metal, sometimes with riffs and arrangement that remind me of PENTACLE, don’t you agree? Even our friend Wannes does, hehe. Iscariah contacted me to release their debut EP and sure I was interested to be the first label to be able to present a new band that will most likely start a good career. The full length LP so far didn’t sell fast, but I am sure that it will be praised in future and considered a classic. I heard a brandnew track and it blew me away. If DEAD TO THIS WORLD won’t make it, then a whole scene must be sleeping. With TARANIS I wanted to present a new, totally unknown band and try to start from scratch. Not easy at all these days, but I feel that those Belgian guys have great potential. Their songs have classic structures that make music catchy, memorable, etc., with choruses and stuff that make a song a real song. Of course it is a pure question of personal taste whether you like it or not. Some songs like ‘Teutonic Invasion’ for me have a clear very old BATHORY touch, like the "Scandinavian Metal Attack" songs. I like TARANIS’ mix of very traditional Black Metal / Thrash with epic touches and the grim but very understandable vocals. TARANIS are oldschool but in a serious way. That’s what I like, it is a deadly mix, grim and serious."
As far as your upcoming plans it has been announced that the second TARANIS album will be soon out on vinyl format and a very special anniversary release that will feature DESASTER and SABBAT. Both releases look really promising… when will they be available to get them?
"The stuff is OUT! TARANIS’ LP version of "Flandriae" is very delayed, but it is worth the wait, ’cause it turned out to be one of my most beautiful releases when it comes to the layout, that’s at least my opinion. The SABBAT / DESASTER Anniversary EP is also really impressive, I am happy with the result. After that you can prepare yourself for a new masterstroke straight from the firepits of Hell: SABBAT "Sabbaptized"! Their new studio album, seven years after their last studio sacrifice "Karmagmassacre"! The oldest still existing Black Metal band after VENOM attacks with pure die-hard Blacking Metal."
I know you are a man that keeps his secret safe and of course there is no reason to spoil this "tradition", but what can the fans expect from the future releases of the winged horse? Don’t tell us names (because I know you don’t want to tell) but give us some little hint… will it be modern, polished new-Metal and a total disappointment for the old fans? Haha
"Honestly I even don’t know what to tell you because I haven’t planned that much. I don’t like to announce 10 upcoming releases, I prefer to go step by step. I am not one of those labels who do "assembly line" releases, I don’t wanna be part of this overkill. There is no point in throwing 3 releases on the market each month…so that those labels have to get rid off their stock for cheap blow out prices some weeks later…. it only creates an overkill and decreases quality. Haha, don’t worry, no modern stuff or New Metal… hey, I don’t do drugs, haha."
IRON PEGASUS has reached an undeniable "cult" status and perhaps is the most important underground label of the past decade to say the least. The amount of releases you have put out and the ones that are going to follow will make most of the competition vanish into thin air. But how long do you feel that you will be able to continue? Is this dependent on the support you get from the fans? And if we make the fans change their minds and instead of supporting mainstream labels they spend all their cash buying real releases this means that you will carry on with IRON PEGASUS till you retire? Hehe
"Thanks alot for the words. About the future: that’s a tough question… five years ago I wouldn’t have thought that I am still around 2009 / 2010. You’ll never know what will happen, so I don’t try to look into the future and get a headache but instead go step by step and see what will happen. The market is very stuffed and overfilled, that’s for sure, labels now circle around like vultures, trying desperately to release something that might sell. That’s why you see so many re-releases of stuff on LP or PicDisc, etc… Some labels haven’t released anything NEW until their 10th release. And if it wasn’t for the die-hard stuff, some labels would already be dead. But it’s hard to say how long this will last until the last fan will be totally fed up. Cheers to the loyal Metal heads who supported the label faithfully during all the years, usually they should known that IRON PEGASUS is a safe port for traditional Metal mayhem, beyond all trends. I believe that quality will always prevail, that’s why I try to release stuff that will be remembered in future as classic. So far it worked out ok, so I just hope that I won’t lose my instinct for this."
Last summer you have attended the two shows that PENTACLE did with mighty PENTAGRAM from Chile. I was so disappointed to see so few people in the Oberhausen gig because I believed that most German crowds would be gathering like crazy to check out the two great bands. One reason is of course the "Hell’s Pleasure" festival that was talking place many miles away. Anyways, which are your memories from those two great events and what can you say to all the fans that have been missing from those nights?
"Of course it wasn’t really clever to do those two gigs on the same weekend as Hell’s Pleasure. This festival had a great line up. But what the hell, as you can see, I was at PENTACLE and not Hell’s Pleasure, ’cause I prefer clubgigs over festivals anyway and wanted to support this gig. Nothing against the bands who played at Hell’s Pleasure, some were totally great, but I am sure that none of them was as heavy as PENTACLE. PENTACLE are live a total headripping ‘n heavy Death Metal monster, Wannes is a super frontman (he already was in SOULBURN and ASPHYX), skilled and possessed, Alex swings a deadly axe and used a supergreat new effect on one of the songs, and Robert knows to pound the hard way as well. PENTAGRAM were really professional, great to see such an unknown band from Chile twisting some necks. Too bad that TARANIS cancelled their show in Rotterdam, but it was a great day anyway like always in the Netherlands (no fights, always relaxed)."
Is there any chance that you will arrange some special gig during the next summer? I know you are planning to do something special with your love, METALUCIFER but no details are ready yet, can you reveal something?
"I’m not somebody who organizes gigs, I only help with contacts from time to time. METALUCIFER will play 4 gigs in Europe anno 2010, "Bulldozing Europe" Tour , hehe. I have no further infos now, but support act should be GUNSLINGER from England. It is the old bassplayer for HAWKWIND, some call him the Motorhawk, cause his band sounds so much like ol’ MOTÖRHEAD and HAWKWIND. Saw the band once and they blew me away. Now I know why Alan is called "Bass Assassin No.2" (given by Lemmy himself… he of course being Bass Assassin No.1). So watch out!"
Costa that’s the end of the torture… I hope it didn’t cause you a lot of boredom, I know the questions were too many and thank you tons for accepting this offer, very much appreciated! The final word is yours…
"Efharisto poli Manolis for givin’ me some support through VOICES FROM THE DARKSIDE – a true CULT Zine! Remember I interviewed Frank about VOICES… like 13 years ago, now you do the same to me, so that’s really cool. Cheers to you ’cause I rarely met people that were such die-hard 110% Metal maniacs like you are, and you even don’t have a tattoo, haha (just kidding… you know who’s talking). As long as serious, dedicated maniacs like yourself are part of the scene, the ancient flame of Heavy Metal will keep on burning. Maniacs who like it the old way, check out www.iron-pegasus.com for real metallic mayhem!"