Article about Mighty Music from: Metalized #88 October/November 2013: Mighty Metal Mighty Music is Denmark’s largest and oldest existing metal label – since the beginning in 1997 driven by die-hards Michal H. Andersen and Bjarke Ahlstrand. Today Mighty is an integrated part of the distribution label Target, also owned by Michael and Bjarke. Bjarke: Michael and I had each our own underground zine in the beginning of the 90s – Michael Emanzipation and I Nagual – and we first met at a Smash of the Mutants concert with Napalm Death and Obituary in KB Hallen in 1992. We wrote to each other, swapped magazines, traded tapes, and helped each other out with distribution of our zines – and we found out, that we’re actually pretty good friends. Later on we created Mighty Magazine, and after Michael had a little flirt with – and released some CDs through DieHard Records and Emanzipation Productions, we decided, that we might as well DIY – and establish Mighty Music in 1997. Michael takes over: – Yes, the magazine came first. There was never any money in it, just fun. But we were in our early 20s and everything was possible. Bjarke: We received so many cool demos, and many of those we thought deserved a deal. At the same time, the Danish scene had its heyday in the middle of the 90s. We snatched Iniquity, Panzerchrist and Sacrificial for Mighty Music and I think these are still great today. Michael nods and elaborates on the collaboration with DieHard: – I started Emanzipation Productions and signed Iniquity as the first band, while I still lived in a boy’s room in Næstved. I spent almost all my money on this project, everything was more expensive and more difficult back then, and everything was a bit unmanageable when you’re 20. Then I got a call from Andreas of DieHard, who was interested in a collaboration, they knew nothing about death metal, they had a lot more focus on punk rock and hardcore. He said I could sign whoever I wanted, and they would pay me and give me royalties, and that sounded great. After Iniquity I signed Centinex from Sweden, Charion from Finland, and Exhumed from Greece, and things took off. But one night, we were talking at Bjarkes one-bedroom apartment in Rødovre and decided to do just do it ourselves and start Mighty Music. Michael daydreams a bit and explains that he wanted to have done as Per from Wrong Again Records (now Regain Records), sign his bands at 16 years old. Per signed both Arch Enemy and In Flames before anyone knew them, and that created a nice basis for him. But we waited until we were a bit older. – Yeah, if only we had been born four years earlier, Bjarke laughs. The hardest part about starting up was the hundreds of hours we spent removing CDs from cases to save postage when sending our records to Brazil and other parts of the world. Even though we’ve released a lot of Danish metal, Denmark has always been a small market, so shipping abroad has taken a lot of time. Mighty Death Metal Shortly before the interview I (the interviewer) was sent a bunch of Mighty’s newest releases. Genre wise these point in different directions. This wasn’t always so. – No, in the beginning we were pretty consequently Death Metal, Bjarke says. Like really brutal New York-ish Death Metal – only from all over the world. It was a different time, and when we started many people bought records according to which label they were released on. If I didn’t read about it in Metalized or in foreign fanzines, I just bought anything that said Earache. And I was god damned disappointed when I bought a Cathedral record, I had expected something like Morbid Angel. The same goes with Nuclear Blast. So our philosophy in the beginning was, if you like brutal death you should be able to trust our label. If we wanted to do something softer, we did it our sub-label Drugs. At that time I made radio with P3 (Danish Broadcasting Corporation), where we had ”Doctor Demo” in a show called ”Go”. Through that I discovered Raunchy and Jerkstore, and we thought it was cool – but didn’t fit with Mighty’s iron cross and long hair profile. Raunchy were pop-boys, so we made our sub-label and released them there. And we continued with Kloak and A Kid Hereafter, but today the metal scene is a big tangle of genres, so genre-labeling doesn’t make much sense anymore, Michael speculates. – Just look at Nuclear Blast – they also work with retro rock side by side with Dimmu Borgir and Suffocation, so working with genres is being erased. It was also in the Death Metal days that Mighty had their notorious slogan ”We’ll still be metal when you have short hair, an ugly wife and work 9 to 5!”. This slogan hasn’t been heard much since both Bjarke and Michael got a haircut … Michael shrugs: – When you’re 21 and have a constant erection, you have to show the whole world! I was actually reminded of this, when I was at Killtown festival, this summer. Someone commented, that the slogan didn’t hold water – I answered him, that he shouldn’t be calling my wife ugly. He he!! – I was the first to get a haircut, because of some high temples, Bjarke laughs. But we’ve discussed a lot, if we should use the slogan. I’ve always loved it, and we had more than 100.000 CD’s out with the slogan on. And I got divorced before I got a cut, so the one with the ugly wife doesn’t really count, he he! And we have never had normal jobs from 9-17, so that one is still valid! Clearly it was our fuck you statement and we’re still tough heavy boys! Mighty Comeback Looking back on Mighty’s back catalog, it seems there was a lot of releases in the late 90s and beginning of the 00’s, very little activity in the middle of the 00’s and then a lot of activity again in the last couple of years. I wonder how that can be? – Well, when we began and kicked ass, we were in our early and middle 20s – but then children, house and career came along. Bjarke had a lot of responsibility at DR (Danish Broadcasting Corporation), and I had a lot of responsibilities at Warner Music, Michael explains. Bjarke takes over. – I produced television for a big audience and Michael sold Madonna records to a lot of people, so the desire to remove Brazilian grindcore CDs from cases was lesser in this period. Michael continues – We put it on ice for a while, also while we started our distribution label Target in 2003. In this period, we still received a lot of inquiries from bands wanting to be on Mighty or Drugs. Michael Poulsen and Volbeat asked if we wanted to sign them at Drugs – and I talked to Jesper from Hammerfall. It might be a shame we didn’t act, but I was focused on building up Target and had no time or energy to sign bands. But during a few years we established Target, both as a distributor and as an independent label, and then you have the perfect set-up to start up again, so we released records with Nephasth from Brazil, and Anasarca from Germany, and later Panzerchrist and our own Compos Mentis. A little time went by, but in the recent years we’re moving again and that’s because we have more and younger people involved. In the old days Bjarke and I used to do everything ourselves – from layout to biographies – but today, it isn’t just us who represent Mighty Music. We have Mirza from Siamese Fighting Fish and Jacob from The Interbeing, and they don’t only help out with the practical stuff – they have plenty to say about who we sign. I have gotten too damn old to hear if a new metalcore band is 6/10 or 8/10, so I take their advice. Bjarke agrees with his mate: – It’s important to be vital at all times, and since we’ve become old assholes, it’s important to gather someone who plays shows and meets new people. Of course we get a lot of inquiries, but Jacob is a performing artist in an extreme metal band and collects contacts and is an ambassador for us. We tell Jacob and Mirza, if they hear something great, bring it on! We’re not a couple of Sony executives saying no-no-no! We trust our people and that’s keeping it fun. Another thing that’s keeping it fun, is new ideas, such as Mighty Fight Night. – Yes, that was my idea – let’s do it in this X Factor society, Michael laughs. Bjarke takes over. – We receive around 50 demos, whereof 10 are really good, and then 5 bands play one evening. The winner goes to the studio. I love these nights! But there has to be some money in it, to keep the fun going? – Mighty is fully integrated with Target today, and Target has 10 people employed, everyone has to have a salary, but it isn’t Mighty carrying the load. We don’t get rich, and there is a reason why we’re the only bigger label at home – all the others are cassette and vinyl labels! You might almost call it public service, what we do! But I’m just happy to work full time with music. Bjarke chips in – We still love it! Metal is our life – just not all of it anymore. Mighty Flagship Wanted Now we know a bit about Mighty and how they find the bands they sign – but which kind of deal does the label typically offer its bands? – There is no standard deal, and I tell that to the bands who ask, Michael explains. Basically it depends how awesome you think it is. Well … I wanted a flagship on Mighty Music, so I’ve contacted both Entombed and Deicide to hear, if we should put out their next releases – without any results. But we have the capacity to sign bands like this, and they will have another contract than a newly started and young band. I use to compare it to relationships, where you start with flirting to see if it’s something. Michael mentioned his band Withering Surface and I’m wondering why they never released an album on Mighty Music, but instead haunted Mesnickows VME-Label Euphonious and a couple of minor foreign labels such as Copro and Scarlet. – I actually released a 7” with Withering Surface on my small vinyl label Prutten Records, Bjarke laughs, before Michael takes over. It was all about the Danish scene being so small and inbred. I thought that people would probably get sore if I released my own stuff, and I just couldn’t be bothered with stupid remarks in town back then. Today I don’t give a damn. The last Thorium record came out on Mighty, and we’ve just released a mini-ep with my doom band Empire Drowns. Bjarke remarks: – Plus it’s healthy to snoop around and see how things are done in other places. Michael could tell you how it was to be on a English label that never answered their phone! It makes you wonder, how you treat your own bands. It must be mentioned that Bjarke also was and still is an active musician – only in lesser known bands. He played in Idionsyncrasy in the beginning of the 90s and a bit later with some of the Detest guys in one of the many incarnations of the defunct Cyborg. In the more recent years it’s primarily industrial in the band Parkinson. But what do a couple of old rats like Michael and Bjarke listen to, when they get home from work and plunge in the sofa? – I listen to a lot of melodic Hard Rock and AOR like Foreigner, Survivor and Journey, Michael explains. I also love Black Sabbath in all incarnations and I like rock such as Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Bruce Springsteen and Kate Bush. But I also listen to metal such as Autopsy and Morbid Angel, and I’ve just rediscovered King Diamond and Mercyful Fate, who are a great listen. Bjarkes’ ballgame is different but familiar. – I listen to insanely much death metal right now: Immolation, Avulsed and Amon Amarth. And I have the New Helhorse on repeat. I’ve just donated 2000 Lps to the new Youth House, who organize the Kill Town Festival. Old Death, Morta Skuld, Broken Hope and the like!