Interview with Carlo Bellotti (Wormholedeath, Epictronic)
1. When did your love for music really begin?
I think in the same way as the vast majority of record companies and publishers, that is, as a musician. My first serious band, after some rather homemade attempts, was Necromass. In the course of time, the band became more and more professional and, after the release of two full-length albums and several EPs, achieved a certain fame internationally. With the release of the second album, the experience was over for me because black metal was becoming a genre like any other, full of clichés such as corpsepaint and cheap Satanism. When a movement born for a few people becomes massified, I tend to lose interest and move on to other sounds.
2. When was the defining moment that lead you to create a label?
With my second band, GF93, we had fun experimenting with a lot of different solutions, starting with industrial and then exploring noise and hardcore, all on the basis of modern and extreme metal. In a way, with that experience, we anticipated many ideas that would later be developed by post-hardcore and metalcore bands. Collaborating with a great producer like Kurt Ballou of Converge on the OSR album coincided with the apex of our evolution, but I like to think that I've skipped steps in many of the genres I've been involved in. I worked with giants like Paolo Favati of Pankow and Ballou himself, people who had created industrial and metalcore practically from nothing and who taught me so much. If we are talking about the Italian metal scene, but not only, I can consider myself proud to have proposed black metal, industrial, and post-hardcore sounds before anyone else, or almost anyone else'.
I've always liked to put ideas at the center of music. During my career on the other side of the fence, nobody ever came to praise me for my incredible skills as a singer or bass player; on the other hand, many people complimented me on the originality of my creations. I have a conception of art in general and of music in particular where it is no longer possible to invent something totally new, but one can still come up with interesting and distinctive material by endlessly mixing the qualities of various genres. You have to find the balance between the collision of distant and apparently irreconcilable worlds and the more or less peaceful coexistence of all the different solutions that come with that collision. If you are able to manage such a creative process, then, for me, you are a good musician. Unfortunately, GF93 lost an essential component such as the bass player, and, with the entry of a guitarist who was, in my opinion, inadequate, they began to propose a kind of more aggressive version of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, which I could define as really unlistenable funky metal. So as not to tarnish the name of a project I cared so much about, I decided instead to end the experience and try my hand at production. Working in the studio turned out to be a real vocation for me. I started to create a small catalog of cool artists with whom I liked to collaborate, and, above all, every year I participated in Popkomm (an international music exhibition based in Berlin, Germany), where I made contacts and made appointments with many of the professionals who are still with me today. I wanted to present my work as a producer, but at the same time, I wanted to study the situation from the inside and try to understand what the margins were for working in the music industry.
3. What do you think is the most important thing to offer/ help an artist with?
Our ambitions are to get every band that we release to a certain guaranteed level, and we are working for this. The amount of money that we are spending to make agreements with so many media, radios, and festivals all around the world is phenomenal, but when this "media/promotion/guaranteed network" is created, then it will be the end of all our competitors, because every band we sign, no matter the genre, no matter the potential, will be able to reach some incredible promotional results that only the HUGE labels could guarantee in the past. This is our goal. We have already achieved it with distribution and publishing with the major labels; now with concerts... The last step is the biggest and most expensive: the media. What you can expect is more and more bands in the charts, certified gold, big tours, big festivals, etc.
4. Every artist I've asked from your roster they refer to Wormholedeath as a family, was that always the intention?
I think it’s because we don't weight our artists based on the money that we make from them; we consider our artists "family" or not based on how they threaten us and how they act with us. If they are nice, polite, loyal, honest, grateful, hardworking, and love being a team with us and bearing our logo on their album for us, they are really important. Even if they don't sell much, they are family. Instead, if they are inflated balloons, rude, and take everything for granted, they are out, even if they have sold well. This is our policy, and it's not going to happen by chance, because we know that the humble will grow forever... The snooty will end up down the drain.
5. Have you learned anything you wish you knew in the beginning?
Yes to work with the older musicians ... The kids have too much stuff in the head and do nothing about the music business so it’s absolute chaos and problems...So you can’t rely on the talent but you have to rely on the talent + age. There’s also a certain correlations with problems and countries.... Artists from a couple of countries are very problematic campared to all the others. I would have loved to know this before I started signing bands.
6. Whats a word of advice you could offer for somebody who is looking to work in the music business?
The advice is that nothing comes fast or easy. If you want to start working in the music business, you need to be patient and work hard for a long time before you see any money. In a few words, it has to be your passion, your dream, or your hobby. If you work hard for long enough and invest (mainly time), then one day you will get a salary from music. If you give up after 1 or 2 months because you are not earning money, then this job is not for you. When I was learning, I was doing two jobs. One job that I didn’t like paid bills and food, and the other was an unpaid job in music. That’s how it is. It’s a very hard selection. The new frontier of music promotion is the placement of songs into playlists. It’s all about streaming, unfortunately. The winners will be the ones able to generate real organic plays on the streaming platforms, and the market will go in this direction as well. Subscriptions, pre-saving, playlists, etc. Horrendous. These playlists will be even more important than YouTube plays or CD sales.
7. What really gets you excited musically? what details/elements are you looking for in a song or band?
Initially, the classic bolt of lightning must strike: listening to a demo with good songs that are well written, well played, and enhanced by an optimal recording. There are many products with these characteristics in circulation, many more than one might imagine, so a behavioral analysis also comes into play, let's say. In order to start a fruitful collaboration on both sides, you need a nice mix of ambition and humility, and it is also crucial to be able to work with the label as if we were all part of one team. The sense of belonging to Wormholedeath is an added value, but artists must be really willing to put themselves out there in a professional manner. That is why we set huge stakes from the very beginning in terms of real market prospects, financial sacrifices, and international competition. In short, when a band gets a record contract, it has not reached the point of arrival but of departure. And that is when you really have to start working your ass off. The quality of the music, the production, the people, and the image go together first. For me, the music alone is not enough. The band needs to have a very strong sound, production, identity, and image. On top of this, I want to know the guys to understand who they are and how they "think", because I don't like rock star wannabes, inflated balloons, big heads, hot-headedness, impoliteness, rudeness, etc. When I understand that the guys are very humble and nice, the album has great songs and a super powerful production, and the band really cares about the image (with "image" I mean graphic artworks, photos, but also having an official website, cool merch, perfect English pronunciation and grammar in the lyrics-bio-posts, updated socials with engagement with fans, etc.), we can check the last thing that is their attitude in being their own managers, selling themselves, and entrepreneur potential. If all these criteria match, then we can make an offer. I don't care if the band is young or has seven albums already; I don't care if the band has videos with a million streams or 1000 plays... If I find what I want in the things I just said, then for me, it's a deal. We, unlike many other labels, don't rely on numbers; we rely on the people and their artistic vision or attitude. For me, attitude is 99% of success.
8. What are some key differences you've noticed in the Italian music scene compared to the US music scene?
If I have to be completely honest I don’t know much about the “scenes” because I am closed 24/7 in my office. btw I think that the bands reflect the attitude of the people. The americans are or ultra committed / dead serious, talented, determined, loyal, trustworthy or absolute clowns/timewasters...There’s no “in between”...Luckily 95% of the people/bands I know belong to the first category. Italians are all in the “in between” category and may fall on one side or the other so it’s always like a lottery to work with them....Obviously there are exceptions...We are working with Slave Steel, Silence Is Spoken, Nemesis Inferi, Little Pig, Hell Theater, Sonum, Geometry Of Chaos, Worstenemy and some others which are great people....So exceptions exist....We have to work hard to find them! That’s how I see things!
9. What started your love for film?
Well, we are all big fans of underground films and film makers, it all start with the launch of our film division....When Susi Medusa Gottardi of Private asked us if we wanted to produce one of her regular (not adult) films, we immediately agreed, and as a result, our label also opened a small "film production" division. The movie is mainly a collaboration between our oldest band, "The Way of Purity," and Susi, who wanted to work together, but obviously for a bunch of freaks like they are, a normal videoclip was not an option, so they asked me to produce this 30-minute film. I think it came out very cool! The narrative is presented as a documentary of a true, scary event. The film relates the story of four musicians who hike into a dark forest near Prague to perform a strange religious ritual and find an old tape recorder in a black house. This tape recorder contains recordings of a suffering voice. After further research, the band finds out that the "dream" has just begun and that everything has a deep religious meaning. After that incredible event, the four guys decided to write an album and use the voices found on the recorder as the main vocals in the songs. " Thirty minutes of brutal romantic atmosphere, written, directed, and created by Susi Medusa Gottardi This film relates the story of a true, scary event experienced by a band of young extremists of the cross: The Way of Purity. The four members of this band are musicians united in faith through a blood pact; they have a higher religious mission and are in contrast with their manager. In a moment of very strong emotional tension, they are guided, apparently by chance, into a black house inside the dark forests of Bohemia, where they find an old tape recorder that contains the harsh, screaming lyrics of a suffering female voice that causes them insane visions of blood and martyrdom. After further research, the band finds out that what happened to them has a powerful religious meaning, as this is the voice of a girl’s spiritual purity, recorded while she was taking her own life in the name of God back in 1972. Deeply moved by all this, they decided to compose the album "Crosscore" using the voices found on the recorder as the main vocals in the songs. Featuring young actress Lena and Steve J. Drakos". The DVD is not for sale; it is only available as a present for our friends, and the digital file has been bought in 47.000 copies.
10. Is there a defining moment you're most proud of in your career?
My meeting with Arno Van Berkel, CEO of Warner Benelux at the time, who asked me if I wanted to start a music publishing company to come under the big Warner Chappell umbrella The second one was with the people in charge of The Orchard, which at the time was the only digital music aggregator on the market and therefore proposed that I distribute my products digitally worldwide. This was also a pioneering move because, in 1999, nobody could have imagined how crucial this distribution channel would become nowadays. In the beginning, The Orchard was two guys working in a bedroom; now it is a global giant whose shares are listed on the Nasdaq technology list, to say the least. Thanks to Van Berkel's interest and the great work of my lawyer, a worldwide management contract was signed with Warner Chappell, and Carlo Bellotti Publishing was born'. What was missing was a real catalog and a channel for physical distribution. So I called Emiliano Lanzoni of the label group Aural Music, whom I knew from the GF93 days, and asked him if he would be interested in taking my fledgling label under his wing. If he agreed, I could count on Aural Music as a physical distributor and label group, The Orchard as a digital distributor, and Warner Chappell as a publisher, so I was pretty much ready to go. The best thing about all these collaborations is that they are still going strong today. I am very loyal to the working partners, I recognize their dedication and professionalism, and I am grateful to them for the great help they give me. I don't want to sound presumptuous, but with the growth of Wormholedeath and Epictronic in recent years, I have been presented with very inviting offers to change collaborators and contact persons, but for me, the fairness of the human relationship always comes first.
11. What would you like to say to everyone who has supported your journey?
I catch the chance to thank all our loyal artists, partners, media-partners, distributors and friends for their everyday’s support and for trusting us with such great patience. It’s an honor for me to work with you everyday. You are the reason for our success. A huge thank you goes to my partner Natascia, our Team: Masa, Max, Coy, Heidi, Tiziana, Sergio, Marcello, Marco, Alberto, Carla, Fernando and all the others...We are too many to name!!!
12. Words for anyone who might have doubted you?
We have learned to manage operational, promotional, accounting, and scouting activities by referring to a few people, because the organization at the base is very solid and tempered by years of experience and because we work so hard. Nobody here has delusions of grandeur; if there is a need to clean the office floor, I can very well take care of it! If, after so long, giants like Sony, which absorbed The Orchard a few years ago, and Warner continue to want to keep us in the family, it means that the facts speak for themselves. This is both a pleasure and an advantage for us, because at those levels there is always something to learn in order to grow even more. Do the same, stay humble, and don't envy those who are better than you; instead, try to make friends so you can learn.