Metal Mofos Isaac Sauers interviews the legendary Steve Rowe of Mortification
Australian metal band Mortification was born in the year 1990 when band Lightforce changed gears from their hard rock sounds and moved to a more extreme sounding form of heavy metal similar to bands in the German thrash metal scene such as Sodom and Kreator.
The band took a turn in to full on turn towards death metal with their popular 1992 album Scrolls of the Megilloth. Mortification’s career was put on hold for a year and half at the end of 1996 when founder Steve Rowe was diagnosed with leukemia which led to cancer in the spinal fluid. Steve was given just two hours to live on two separate occasions. He beat the cancer, but the disease left him with paraplegic abilities. In 1998 they came back in full swing and have been performing and putting out new music since.
Since 1990 Mortification have released one demo album, fifteen studio albums, four live albums, and three compilation albums.
I recently got the opportunity to chat with band leader, founder, vocalist, and bass guitarist Steve Rowe. We talked about all things heavy metal music, his band Mortification, and his new project Wonrowe Vision.
Steve lives in the Melbourne, Australia area.
Our conversation started out with customary pleasantries and proceeded to go into a conversation regarding our different seasons and weather now between Australia and the United States.
Metal Mofos: I’m located in the Washington, DC area. The Mid Atlantic region of the United states.
Steve Rowe: So you’re on the same time zone as New York. You’re in summer over there and we’re in winter over here.
MM: Yes, it’s been extremely hot here recently.
SR: What was the temperature like today?
MM: It was definitely over 90 degrees. Very hot.
SR: We used to tour over there in the summer time during 1990s. Sometimes when we were down in Texas it was 110 degrees. I was playing outside and in the back of a truck so I know what that’s like.
MM: Goodness, I’m sure the sweat was just pouring off of you.
SR: Oh yes, it gets hot, and it’s even hotter down South. I went down to Mexico and South America in August so it wasn’t too bad there.
MM: What’s winter like in Australia?
SR: We get a bit of everything. We don’t really get snow in the cities. You work in Fahrenheit we work in Celsius. Today is about 10 or 11 Celsius. I’m not sure what that is in Fahrenheit. 30 degrees is hot. 20 degrees is nice spring weather. 0 is freezing. 1 degree is snow.
MM: Yes, I remember learning in school our 32 degrees is your 0 degree.
SR: Yes, if it got down to 1 degree we might get a bit of sleet but we don’t really get snow. The weather further south is the coldest. We’re the opposite of America of course. The further north you are here the closer you are to the equator. North in Queensland and parts south of there too are hot all year round. I’m in the bottom, down in Melbourne. The only thing beneath us is Tasmania and the South Pole. The only place that’s really cold in Australia is Tasmania.
MM: Very cool. Always nice to learns something new about another part of the world! Let’s talk a bit about music. I’ve been focusing a lot on covering extreme types metal bands here at Metal Mofos. Death metal, black metal, etc. I wanted to try to get in touch with you. I got my first Mortification album when I was 13. I got the Hammer of God album. This was around 16 years ago.
SR: I was, I’m trying to think how old I was when I did Hammer of God. 1999 I was 39. No, no, I wasn’t 39. I was 34 (laughs). I’m 51 now.
MM: I’m just about to hit my 30th birthday.
SR: Yes, I figured. I got leukemia when I was 31 so before that when I was your age I was touring all over the world. I’ve toured a lot since, but I’ve lived with a degree of paraplegia. It’s one of my reasons for making different decisions about touring and performing. I’d still be out there touring but it’s hard, you know? I’m disconnected in lumbar 1 so I don’t walk very well. It’s gotten to the point now where at 51 I sit down to perform, and that’s one of the reasons why I’ve done Wonrowe Vision. I’ve been listening to classic rock and heavier rock from the 70s. I’ve been revisiting that a lot. I knew I’d end up having to sit down to play because the legs are starting to fade on me.
MM: What type of 70s rock are you listening to? I know you’re a big fan of Status Quo.
SR: Well, back in 1973 my brother started bringing albums home. I was 8 and he was 10. He used to steal money from my parents I think (chuckles). The first thing he brought out was Slade live. I still like Slade. I just got a four CD box set of theirs. Suzi Quatro, Status Quo, Deep Purple, and Budgie. All that classic rock stuff some you might not have heard of. Uriah Heep, Blue Oyster Cult. I’ve seen all those bands. Uriah Heep and Blue Oyster Cult just once. Status Quo a number of times. Deep Purple a number of times. Of course in the late 70s I got into Motorhead then Iron Maiden. I was there in the store in 1980, when I was 15, waiting when the first Iron Maiden came out. I looked at the cover, “Man I’ve got to buy that.” Manowar then came along. It’s just a progression. I kind of just grew up with it. What’s the next heaviest thing, you know?
MM: How did you get into the real heavy stuff? What got you into death metal?
SR: I heard Motorhead in the late 70s and really got into them in the 80s when the live album came out, No Sleep Till Hammersmith. And you had the really fast Manowar songs. Next thing, Metallica came along, and Megadeth, and Anthrax. It just progressed. In 1984 Sodom’s first EP came out and Kreator came out in 86. It was just interesting to see what people did next. By the time we got to doing Mortification which was basically 1990, Break the Curse was based on German thrash metal. Then later in 1990 we heard Bolt Thrower’s Realm of Chaos, we heard Benediction and Napalm Death. They were a little bit more noisy before they did Harmony Corruption in 1990. So when we heard Bolt Thrower and Napalm Death that was just kind of our next step.
The interesting thing is that one some of our early albums, our first three albums, especially on Scrolls of the Megilloth which was the big one, I was doing black metal vocals before anyone else was. I mean I was doing great deep death metal vocals, but we were doing black metal vocals before they really became a thing.
MM: I notice that in your music. I think there’s a lot of black metal style vocals and even guitar riffs on your album Post Momentary Affliction which was your follow up to Scrolls. Was the black metal scene an influence on that album at all?
SR: No, I think the riffs on Post Momentary Affliction are more influenced by Sodom. Just a rolling riff pattern on songs like “Human Condition” you can hear a German influence there.
I never really got into the Florida scene. Of course in the 80s I heard Death. I heard Scream Bloody Gore and Leprosy, and Spiritual Healing before we actually decided we were going to go that heavy. Death’s early stuff came out in ’86. I was 21 then. I just kind of grew up with it. You just kind of discover this stuff. Just walk into the shop and get it. I remember in 1984 we had a metal shop in the city and lining up at midnight so we could buy Metallica’s Ride the Lightning. It was just all the metalheads in Melbourne there to buy Metallica. We lined up for 3 hours to get our Metallica. It was just different back then, you know?
MM: Right. Even when I was a teenager in the early 2000s this album had been out for many years and still had an impact.
SR: When they were playing it in the shop no one could believe how much a leap it was from the first album. The first album was a classic. Metallica’s lost me a little bit, but they’ve succeeded considering they’ve done some, what you might call brave things, which I’ve done as well. I’ve caught criticism in stuff I’ve done. I think they tried really hard with their last album but the biggest loss in Metallica was definitely Cliff Burton.
MM: Oh yes, of course. He was a tremendous bass player. There’s some bands where the bass really stands out but mostly the instrument is just kind of there in the background.
SR: Well, it is a background instrument unless you make it an upfront instrument. I had my first bass lesson in 1983. I played guitar as well in the early 80s. I was never comfortable with it. Lemmy was never comfortable with guitar either. As he said, he got away with murder playing it in the 60s. When he went to Hawkwind he just went to a rehearsal to play bass, picked up a Rickenbacker and was like Hey I’m good at this, you know? It was all rock and roll stuff and basic understanding of riff patterns then solos and stuff. He was very clever. So, I went to this bass lesson and I had a cassette and I played the bass intro to “Ace of Spades” and “Kill WithPower” by Manowar. Bass guitar was all over those albums. I thought well if I’m going to play I want to try to make the bass guitar a feature instrument, which was easier when I wasn’t doing vocals. So in Lightforce, my early band, I could do a lot more playing around the neck. When you’re doing the vocals you kind of have to cut back on the playing and focus on doing both.
MM: Your bass playing is definitely a big part of Mortification. It really stands out. You can hear the bass prominently in every song. It makes Mortification’s music interesting to me. It’s not just focused on one thing. It’s everything coming together.
SR: Well, that’s really what I was trying to do. That’s what annoys me about bands like Destruction and Morbid Angel, even though they’re not a band I like very much. I certainly like Destruction though. I mean, I’ve seen Destruction live. There’s one guitarist and you can’t hear the bass guitar. What’s the use of him?
MM: That’s exactly how I feel about some bands. Why do you have a bass player? We can’t hear anything!
SR: Well, just the guitarist playing in the band is designed to be a rumble, you know? Like Bolt Thrower for example. Jo Bench plays quite straight so she’s just a rumble in the background. It’s even hard to hear Napalm Death bass player Shane Embury sometimes. He over uses distortion which should make it stick out, but he uses a fat distortion sound. If he plays on his own you can hear him, but it just becomes a roar in the background really. If it wasn’t there you could miss it. For example when Kreator came out with Pleasure to Kill bass guitar was all over it. It was just awesome because it was chaotic, you know? Then they came out with Extreme Aggression and I was like, really? You’re going to make it that clean and guitar oriented? Not like when you hear the really early Kreator stuff.
MM: Can you tell me a bit about your song writing process? What comes first? Music or lyrics?
SR: I usually come up with a concept. All my lyrics are based on the Christian faith and Biblical perspectives. So, that made it pretty different. We started in the 80s in what was called the Christian music scene so in America our music would be placed in big bookstores and places like Walmart in the Gospel section. We released all this extreme music and it would be sold in Walmart under Gospel. And we sold a lot of it. I said to the record company, why are you sticking us under Gospel music? They said because the people who are buying your albums are the moms who are buying for their sons and daughters because, Oh my kid is listening to Morbid Angel or Metallica or something, and they would probably like this because they came from a church and wanted their kid to hear something more Gospel oriented. So we sold a lot of records that way. When in Europe, on the Nuclear Blast label, we would sit between Morbid Angel and Motorhead, which is a good place to sit in the record stores.
MM: Yeah, right in there with your peers.
SR: That’s the scene. People would buy Morbid Angel and Mortification at the same time. Of course I caught my fair share of hatred over the years as you can imagine.
MM: That’s something I wanted to ask you about, some conflicts you may have had in the metal scene. What’s the appeal of Satan in heavy metal? Why are so many metal bands, especially extreme metal bands, like Morbid Angel for example so involved in that and so anti-Christianity?
SR: I don’t know. The people aren’t brought up with any form of faith. Let’s just put it that way. I was brought up in a very conservative Baptist home. I go to a Presbyterian church now. The church I go to is just your average conservative Bible church. It’s not Catholic or Pentecostal. It’s right in the middle. It’s kind of an odd place for a metalhead to be. I had to move away from the evangelical church for a while because they didn’t understand what I was doing or didn’t want to understand. They were quite conservative. It’s hard for bands like me in the 80s and 90s to survive in that environment so I went to a more charismatic church. They were more open to talking about new ideas about Christianity through different genres. Now I’ve been able to move back into the mainstream evangelical churches and they’re quite accepting. I mean some people don’t get it. I certainly remain a pretty mild mannered dude.
Both Troy and Andrew in my band Wonrowe Vision are both full time ministers. Andrew has played drums in Mortification as well. Since the classic era of Mortification Lincoln (Bowen, guitar) has been the biggest part of the rest of it. He’s come and gone at different times when he’s had kids. He turns 40 in January so he’s a fair bit younger than me. When we did Envision Evangeline (1996 album) he was 18. I was 30.
MM: Can you tell me a bit about the Envision Evangeline album? That album started a move a way from the heavier death metal sound to more of a straight up metal and thrash type of sound. You had the opening 18 minute epic track. Can you tell me how this came about?
SR: Well, I never really wanted to be boxed in to anything. One of the reasons Jayson Sherlock (original Mortification drummer) left the band in 1993 was because he didn’t like Post Momentary Affliction because it was a move away from the death/grind scene. I never wanted to stick with just any one thing. I have so many influences going back to the 70s, and I wanted to combine making extreme metal music with different influences. Why not mix in a traditional metal style song? People haven’t done that. All 16 Mortification albums sound completely different.
MM: They really do. I agree.
SR: Even Blood World is really crusty. Primitive Rhythm Machine was a take on Sepultura or something. I didn’t want to annoy anybody. I just wanted to enjoy life. I like to play songs from all different eras, but I can’t get anything right in some fans opinions. Then there are a lot of fans who like everything and like the changes. People will ask, what’s the best Mortification album? Envision Evangeline or Relentless? They sound similar. Then other fans will say my favorites are Blood World and Primitive Rhythm Machine. Which one do you think is the best? Then the real hardcore fans love Scrolls of the Megilloth and the self titled album.
MM: Yes, there’s just so many different sounds. I was listening to Primitive Rhythm Machine the other day, and I really love the drums on that album especially with the title track. They have a cool tribal sound.
SR: That was kind of a progression from Blood World in that we needed to use the real drums rather than trying to get perfection. Envision Evangeline was all played to a click track so it’s all very perfect. Whereas Scrolls, Blood World, and Primitive Rhythm Machine were played with me guiding the drummer so it sounded more live. Post Momentary Affliction was recorded to a click track. I was just trying different ways of doing it.
The very first thing we did, Break the Curse, was recorded in two 12 hour sessions. We did 5 songs in 12 hours then again for the second 12 hours. It was released originally as a demo then in 1993 Nuclear Blast asked if we had anything older they could release. I said there’s Break the Curse that we released on tape in 1990. The said let’s release it as Break the Curse 1990 so people know it’s going back. I don’t know if you have that one.
MM: I do actually. I have the vinyl. Silver edition.
SR: Cool. Yeah, I have it here. So it was recorded in those two 12 hour sessions. Two graveyard shifts for $1,000 per day. We did 6:00 PM – 6:00 AM with no lock out. We had to come in, do everything in 12 hours, and get out. We set up and recorded 5 songs with bass and drums live, then we did leads, then vocals. Then we mixed the first take basically on most things. When you have a really good drummer like Jayson Sherlock… you need to have a very good drummer to go in and do that. You have to be very well rehearsed.
MM: How many hours a day would you guys spend practicing on average?
SR: It’s varied. Back in the 90s we would rehearse 12 hours per week. We did two 6 hour sessions. Now we rehearse probably 4 hours every two weeks. I’m just doing Wonrowe Vision at the moment. I’m going to do a 30th anniversary Mortification album. I’m going to do it with Mick Jelinic who played on Brain Cleaner (2004 album which returned to death metal roots) I did tell our fans that our last album was going to be the last one, because of my physical situation. It’s very up and down. I don’t know whether or not I can perform. If you take a look at the Mortification 25th Anniversary Concert you can’t hear the bass guitar because it’s so far down in the mix. This was massively criticized because it just didn’t sound like us. People would say, oh Steve’s old now and disabled and can’t do it anymore. It’s not just that. I’m working with a drummer who approaches the drums very differently. I’m working with a guitarist who, well, getting a death metal sound out of Lincoln Bowen is impossible. He’s just a straightforward heavy metal guitarist. It depends on the people in the band. Mick Carlisle (who played on early Mortification albums) basically played like a black metal guitarist. He’s a very good rhythm player but not a very good lead player. When we did Scrolls, Post Momentary, and Blood World I had to write a lot of bass stuff because he didn’t really want to do solos. I thought this is going to be an adventure here. If you listen to songs like “Human Condition” where in the solo I’m playing a rock and roll chord. It’s just rock and roll up at the top of the neck, but people don’t notice because everything is so intense.
Also, since cancer I’ve lost half of my eyesight and can’t really walk so it’s a whole different world being 51 with paraplegia then being 27 and being able to throw my whole body at it, you know?
MM: Would you be willing to share with us some of your life experiences with the cancer and paraplegia and how God’s helped you overcome that?
SR: For me, my faith is the foundation of everything. Always has been. Even though between the ages of 15-19 I wasn’t really accepted in the Baptist church because I looked different, wore the wrong clothes, listened to the wrong music, and whatever, but I was always a Christian in my heart. When I was 19 someone played me Resurrection Band, which is a Christian heavy rock band. I went into the Christian bookstore and found this other heavy rock stuff like Jerusalem then of course Stryper came along and the whole world changed, you know? Everyone’s singing about the devil so we’ll sing about something that has meaning to us.
Everyone’s singing about something. You might as well sing about something that provides a quality perspective on life because there’s just so much filth and negativism out there. There’s a level of depravity in metal. Whether they’re doing it for shock value or whether they’re doing it in really life doesn’t really matter, I guess. When you see bands like Watain and Mayhem these guys to me look like they’re pretty lost. They just don’t seem like happy people, but I guess the whole black metal image is to not be.
Back in the day we were involved in a lot of controversy. In 1994 I paid for Jayson Sherlock to do the Horde album (Hellig Usvart) which is black metal. He calls it unBlack metal. Hellig Usvart means “Holy Unblack” I said it sounds like a good idea to me because everyone’s listening to Darkthrone, Mayhem, Burzum, and whoever. (Nuclear Blast received death threats from people in the black metal scene about the record) Everything he touches is brilliant musically. He and I are on a bit different perspectives musically. He doesn’t want to do anything that’s quirky or cheesy whereas I don’t mind that. That’s kind of where we’re different. Like when I did “Flight of Victory” which is the bass solo instrumental on Post Momentary Affliction it just made him cringe. That’s fine; I mean it’s just different perspectives. He wants everything to be brutal and serious.
MM: I believe he’s in a death metal band again now, right?
SR: Yes, a band called Revulsed. They’re on an American label and got an American vocalist. They did a gig a couple weeks ago. I couldn’t make it though, unfortunately. Jayson and I see each other and we’re fine. He’s just redone the Post Momentary Affliction album cover so we’ve been in contact because that’s being released on vinyl.
MM: Cool, I’ll have to get that one.
SR: I’ll have a few copies of it on my website roweproductions.com. It’s down at the moment because it’s getting rebuilt. I have some Scrolls records as well. Post Momentary will be coming, and I’ll just be getting a handful of copies. I just get paid for the copies the British company Soundmass sells. I just get a few copies. Most of them I give away to band members and stuff. People aren’t buying music now anyway. It’s sad. Mostly stealing it.
MM: Last year my uncle got me interested in buying vinyl records so I’ve been buying a lot of that over the past year. I have few of your records on vinyl. Do you have an original press of Post Momentary Affliction from 1993?
SR: Yes, I have one. Nuclear Blast released it in Europe. Intense Records didn’t release one on vinyl. It’s coming out again with the Intense Records cover. The current only vinyl release is the Nuclear Blast cover which is actually a bizarre picture of what would be 9/11 and it came out in 1993. Take a look at that cover. It’s got two towers broken down, a policeman, and the Statue of Liberty in the background. It’s pretty much a picture of 9/11. It’s pretty bizarre. Markus Staiger (Nuclear Blast executive) just had that piece of art lying around. He didn’t really like the American album cover so he redid it from scratch. There’s going to be a 10 inch as well. When we did Scrolls we had to leave off “Ancient Prophecy” which goes to 12 minutes just so we could keep the vinyl to 44 minutes. When we did Post Momentary we left off “Overseer” because it goes for 11 minutes. So there’s going to be a 12 inch Post Momentary and a 10 inch with “Ancient Prophecy” and “Time Crusaders” which is a 1994 more thrashy kind of song we had on the Live Planetarium album. Those two will be side A then side B will be “Overseer” and “Butchered Mutilation” which was recorded for Post Momentary Affliction but it didn’t end up getting on the album. Jasyon and I were a bit at odds as to where the band was going and “Butchered Mutilation” was a great death metal song, but it didn’t really fit.
MM: I read an article from Metal Hammer recently which asked the question, Have there ever been any good Christian metal bands? The comments from all the readers were the opposite of what I expected. There were 300 people commenting about all of these Christian metal bands and how good they are. It outnumbered the people who would say things like Christian metal sucks or whatever. There are lots of good metal artists who are Christians.
SR: There was a lot more back in the day than there is now. Besides Stryper, Guiardian, and Barren Cross, we were the only band who was signed to a major label. Most bands tended to stay in just the Christian market. One of the bands on my label, Antidemon from Brazil are a really good death metal band. They tour all over the world. They haven’t been to America yet because they can’t get visas. They’re a really good three piece.
MM: Yes, I’ve heard their album Apcolypse Now. The vocals are just brutal.
SR: Yeah, he’s the real deal, you know? People were crying out for that kind of stuff. Just listen to Antidemon. I’ll throw on some Napalm Death, or Bolt Thrower, or some old crusty stuff like Benediction. As I said I never really got into the Florida scene although it seemed to be an epicenter of evil stuff. Chuck was really in a league of his own though. Part of the reason he was hated by the black metal scene was because he made a statement around 1994 when he was asked, why don’t you sing about evil anymore? He said, “I used to do that when I was a kid. Now I’m grown up.” I think the black metal scene took themselves very seriously at the time.
I released a compilation album on my label back in 1995 call Northern Lights which had bands like Antestor and Extol before they did anything big. It was all this Norwegian unblack metal type of stuff, which followed on from Jayson doing Horde. It was all in the vain of old school black metal type music that Jayson did. The funny thing about black metal was in 1994 we did a big long tour for our album Blood World which was 75 shows long or something like that. We did a show in Melbourne with a band called Hobbs’ Angel of Death. Peter Hobbs sang about all this Satanist stuff although I think he’s not really into it. It was more just an image for him. He does all this shock/horror stuff on stage. In 1989 we did a Heaven and Hell tour with them which got a lot of publicity.
MM: What are your thoughts on the current Christian metal scene?
SR: Well, there really isn’t one. There are some good bands. HB from Finland. They’re really good. They have a female singer. Of course Antidemon. Stryper is still pretty huge. As huge as they can be anyway. They’re certainly not selling out 10,000 seat stadiums in American anymore. They’re playing at places like the Whisky in the American hard rock circuit. Same as bands like Ratt and Kix. All those type of 80s bands still play in the hard rock circuit.
MM: Could you tell me about your band Wonrowe Vision? They have more of a classic metal sound than a lot of the stuff you did with Mortification.
SR: In 2009 when we first started working on Mission Invincible I wanted to do something like Motorhead with a bit of rock and roll like Status Quo or ZZ Top or something like that. I wanted a late 70s or early 80s metal scene kind of sound. A lot of bands from 79 or 80 weren’t really even metal they were rock and roll. Like if you listen to Angel Witch or Witchfynde it’s just rock and roll really. They just play angry rock and roll. We just call it metal. One of my influences back in the 80s with Lightforce and with Wonrowe Vision now is Angel Witch because the guy can’t sing, but the way he structures his songs are really catchy. It’s really easy to sing. One thing I wanted to work on was to see if I could learn how to sing. I’ve been taking lessons from everything from opera to rock so I’ve learned how to sing. The album we’re going to do next year is going to be much better vocally than the first few albums. The first one I just sort of phrased like Lemmy. I didn’t really know where I was going vocally with 2 Headed Monster. I was still learning how to sing. The new album will definitely be stronger vocally than anything before. I knew Mortification wasn’t going to work with me sitting down. If I’m going to perform I need something I can perform sitting down. We get away with me sitting down with the metal/rock of Wonrowe Vision.
When it gets down to it there’s no rules. Someone told me, that’s not bass playing, that’s guitar playing and you need to learn to read music. I go, I don’t want to learn to read music. Because I like creating. The genius of guys like James Hetfield is he doesn’t write music. He creates music. Around the time I heard the first Metallica album I thought this is just genius when I found out James didn’t know how to read music. For that matter I don’t think Mark from Dire Straits reads music. They don’t write music, they create. I don’t know if Lemmy read music, he just created. I think that I’m free, because my music is pretty bizarre and out of the box because I have nothing to unlearn. People that read and understand music think it has to have this typical structure. Lincoln brought some structure in early on and we’re working on more complex ideas.
An interesting thing with Mortification was, and a mistake probably, was signing with a Christian label in America. When Scrolls came out the guy Daniel who distributes Nuclear Blast here went to see Markus Staiger who is a Catholic. Markus told him I want to sign a Christian band. Daniel said he knew a band. Daniel called me and said Markus from Nuclear Blast wants a Christian band and I think you should try out. I had heard Nuclear Blast was looking to sign death metal type bands so we should have gone there first. I rang Markus and said I would send him a copy of Scrolls which had just come out. As soon as he got it he rang me and asked what he had to do to license it. I told him he has to call the American company and license it from them. We never made a cent. All the money went to the American company. We sold a lot of albums. We’re making a tiny bit of money now. Record contracts… they sign your life away. If we had signed to Nuclear Blast earlier we would have done much better. All the money got sucked up by the American company. I went to visit the American company and it was just a bunch of guys in suits whereas Nuclear Blast was all laid back and guys had long hair and t-shirts. We signed to Metal Blade in 1998 for three albums, Triumph of Mercy, Hammer of God, and a live album 10 Years Live not Dead. Brian Slagel is a smart guy. They still release bands like Cannibal Corpse, Six Feet Under, Savatage, and King Diamond although he hasn’t released anything in years. Brian is basically retired. He owns like six houses in Hollywood. Where Markus owns this multi million dollar complex. Now the sales probably aren’t what they were in the late 90s when he went over the top. Once he got Manowar he went really big.
When I launched Rowe Productions in the 90s and started doing well I never rented a premises because I thought this isn’t going to last forever. I could basically have signed any Christian death metal band and it would just sell. Everyone was hungry for it because it was the 90s. I would collect names and addresses from touring in American and Europe. I had people write down their name and address on a paper at our merchandise table so we could send them a catalogue of available merchandise. I had 4,000-5,000 addresses where I would send out catalogues every 3 months or so. Six weeks later I would get back hundreds of orders. All direct retail. The Australian dollar was valued really low at the time. I think it was $36 Australian was equal to $18 US.
MM: Right now I think most people stream music online through places like Spotify, YouTube, or Apple Music.
SR: Most people tend to steal it. My biggest income right now is from streaming. YouTube is probably the best. Any clips that are viewed come back some how. Money goes to this person, to this person, to this person, and we might get like .0001 cents every time someone listens to something. People don’t really want to be part of it, but you kind of have to be part of it. Next level of income would be iTunes. The paid downloads. I personally buy hard copy music. We have a physical store and a few independent stores I go to. I tend to buy online from fishpond.com. It’s similar to Amazon and eBay. You don’t pay shipping. I can get a Status Quo CD from there from the UK for $14 Australian, and that’s all I pay. That’s about $7-$8 US.
It’s a good idea to remove the postage cost and reduce the income just to move product. I’ve got a lot of stock I want to unload. I’m going to use their method. It’s not really about making money anymore. It’s about making money to turnover so you can keep going.
I don’t think people realize what they’re doing to music when they steal it. It’s not about having to go out and buy a CD. You can buy it from iTunes or you can stream. If you want to listen to music just stream it. You can even stream radio stations worldwide. Every strong on there gets paid a streaming fee. YouTube has made the world a smaller place.
MM: For some of our readers who have not heard you music previously, what are five songs you would recommend they listen to:
SR: From Mortification: “Scrolls of the Megilloth”, “Human Condition”, “Envision Evangeline” , “Web of Fire”, and “Feed Your Hungry Ears” from our last album. From Wonrowe Vision probably “Vaporizer” off the first album , “That’s Total Evil” off the second album, “Stone Elder” and “I’m Gonna Be a Good Looking Corpse” from 2 Headed Monster.
Steve is currently targeting a 2017 release date for the next Wonrowe Vision album and a 2020 release for a special 30th Anniversary Mortification album.
Be sure to check out their video for their classic death metal song and title track of their famed 1992 album Scrolls of the Megilloth linked here.
- Isaac Sauers
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