Yup, our friendship been over a decade! Before I started RETRIBUTION NETWORK, I had BLOODAXE 168 COMMUNICATIONS DISTRO. I think 00' to 01'. Back then we didn't have computer so catalog by handmade and order through TEL/FAX only haha. I started as RETRIBUTION, We got web site and started again as mail order distro. I worked for few years at START TODAY mail order after my university. I was into some hardcore music distribution business after some experience at Start Today.
What motivated you to start this label? Did you have any experience with releasing albums beforehand?
When I played State Craft, I always had had some kind of projects bands. I didn't have money for pressing CD so did some self made CDR. so RETRIUTION NETWORK label was just for my own side project bands. We were a CDR label in the beginning but I opened my eyes a bit and tried to put various bands CDs out after the compilation called "RESSURECTION"
It seems like most Japanese bands have a label and there are not a lot of DIY releases. Did you ever do the whole cut and paste layouts routine for your early bands or did you go straight to being on a small label?
The beginning of Retribution Network releases from most my solo project or me with dude in 168 like NOVEMBER MOON, END OF STATEMENT, BLOOD RITUAL etc. I recorded drum by myself and recorded guitar/bass and put voice from vocalist. All recording work was done at my house haha. So quality is not good so I supposed to release as CD-R and its my own label.
Your earliest releases that I remember were the End Of Statement discs. Tell me the story on this release. There is a 10 song full length which features a very high pitched, seemingly-strained voice but then there is also a 5 song EP featuring the same songs yet with a noticeably lower, demonic sounding set of vocals. It seems to be the same track with some wild effects put on it. I remember you telling me something about this initially but I love both versions of this release so much and just want to know the story.
I still got more 4, 5 tracks for END OF STATEMENT and We released Perish EP and PERISH+1 (redux with new track). Sound production was much better than the older stuff. It was 99'-00' I think
and we wrote called "168 Legacy" and released as 2 tracks EP called Messiah. This was the best recoding by myself drum, guitar, bass and voice and I featured most bands vocalist around Bloodaxe 168 on these tracks. Hope you check 1st edition of 168 Legacy (We re-recorded again for TESTAMENT album but that's real recording version).
We got 10 songs from END OF STATEMENT so we tried to release as full album with real recordings. So I invited members from MASA (LOYAL TO THE GRAVE drum) A-KILLER, GV (BIRTHPLACE) as official member and we re-recorded whole tracks as a band and released full album called TESTAMENT through RETRIBUTION NETWORK. Singer Bloodpit high pitch vocal cause he was just drummer haha. He didn't do tough vocals and some inflence by UNBORN(same Slayer rip as us). Their MCD on Lifeforce vocal parts was hi-pitched screaming shout so I suggested to natural shout by his tone. haha.
After that album, We tried to use VOICE CHANGER and get low tone voice version and released called "OFFICIAL PROPHECY". My old friend RAT (STATEMENT) did voice changer for their split with DIM-MAK on New Eden so we got hint from him a bit and tried and got evil voice for Official Prophecy.
Similarly to my label it seems you started off burning your own CD-Rs along with a layout and then eventually switched to getting your discs replicated professionally at a pressing plant. What made you decide to take the step up to the next level and which release did you start doing so on?
Yeah I did whole atrwork by my laptop and burnt CD-R and was releasing and selling stuff like E-STATEMENT, HANDS UPON SALVATION (Indonesia), SHIVER, CANOPUS and many more. Most from 5 tracks demo so CD-R was the best way to spreading. But when we started to release full length like END OF STATMENT - Testament, BLOOD CALLS WE DIE - Pray For Rain, VA -The Resurrection compilation we decided it shouldn't be CDR because recording cost was much more than self recording and we wanted to distribute in the main stream marketing So needed to put as decent product.
While most of your releases are domestic, you’ve also released several demos and splits featuring international acts. Most bands from overseas do not ever travel to play Japan. What makes it worthwhile to release CDs from bands who will presumably never come to play in your country?
Yeah in the late 90's to early 00' if I have 100 favorite bands overseas, 99 bands didn't come to Japan. The hardcore scene was not international like nowadays. So I didn't think problem to put the band if I haven't met person who released on my label. Its the big difference with my current main RETRIBUTE RECORDS. I release my real friends like LIFELESS, SUBURBAN SCUM, DESOLATED etc (and upcoming DESPAIR discography too) and for the DRAWING LAST BREATH album is we can see at Sound And Fury when Ecostrike gonna play on that fest.
Your label has been CD-exclusively to my knowledge. Have you ever pressed vinyl or cassettes? It seems as though Japan is one of the few places left where people prefer CDs over the analog formats. Why do you think this is?
Yeah I love cassettes and still my one of favorite format. the band released cassette demo between mid to late 90' but early 00' bands released CD-R demo right? That means most New Eden Records bands released CDR demo cdr etc. Euro bands too. People was into CDR format after mid 90's cassette popularity. Also hiphop looks same I was purchasing tons mix tape CASSETTE but early 00 was most MIX CD/CDR. When I did Retribution Network in full effect was around 00', that's why most from CDR format. But yeah VENGEFUL HANDS OF JUSTICE and NOVEMBER MOON demo were definitely on cassette release! Why because 90's products. VINYL is too much expensive If we press LPs, it cost more than 15 bucks. Even in late 90's 7' from over seas price was 6 bucks haha. So doesn't work for any bands in Japan marketing!
How do you put together your split CDs? The bands are typically from all over the world and presumably do not know each other. Do you seek out bands with a similar style to piece together for a release or is it just a coincidence that you have three different metalcore bands hitting you up to do a release all at the same time?
I don't like much some compilation or V.A but late 90's early 00' products were so good because that is focusing similar sound bands or some kind of scene report (Syracuse, Erie, Troy, H8000) etc so if we put worldwide split between similar sound style bands from different world each band can be spread words on Retribution etc. That's why I did some split release on my label.
Do you ever approach bands about a release or do you moreso just accept submissions? What factors do you consider when deciding on whether to release an album or not?
Basically RETRIBUTION NETWORK was the label that released around my friends in Bloodaxe so always I rush around my young band to release new release. when, how many songs also about song writing, artwork. etc. When we release a new act through my label the scene looks get more widely and it better for the scene. Some foreign bands asked me about a Japan release sure.
If the band will fit on my label or I used to carry any of old titles etc, I go ahead to release on my label. But most from very very local releases haha, Why because we close my label after our latest release like 1618, END IS FOREVER etc.
Retribution Network was infamous for its releases all having a somewhat similar sound ranging from the H8000 styled metalcore to hardcore kids who listen to the right amount of Slayer. I am assuming this was a conscious decision to designate a style to your label. What do you see as the value being in that?
Yeah, you know my STATE CRAFT was writing such European edge metal mixed with US 90's style hardcore so basically most bands around me loved such solid edge metal style band. I love all kind of hardcore longer years but BLOODAXE 168 communications distro was carrying only such European or US mid 90's classic/edge metal sound hardcore bands. because of was my favorite.
You also started an off-shoot label called Clandestine which focused moreso on beatdown. What made this decision final and do you have future plans for it?
When I started RETRIBUTION NETWORK DISTRO, hardcore scene looked more wide and I got many newer friends through MySpace instead of airmail/letter to my favorite band. Also I'm focusing to my LOYAL THE THE GRAVE after STATE CRAFT stopped in 01' so have chance to distribute more many bands from various kind of hardcore music like beatdown/tuffguy, youth crew, more metal hardcore, metalcore anything. When I signed to DOGGY HOODS. We decided to co-release with FILLED WITH HATE RECORDS. Then I started newer label called Clandestine. I separated 90's style hardcore bands for RETRIBUTION and more hard music for CLANDESTINE. So we released VOW OF HATRED, BLOOD BY DAYS etc through Clandestine.
Somewhere in the past few years you switched the name up from Retribution Network to Retribute Records and seemingly broadened your spectrum on types of hardcore to release. There also seems to be a stronger focus on releasing international bands who DO have tours planned in Japan around the time of the release. What thought process brought this about?
When I opened Nerds record store 3 years ago, I have learned some new business and meaning of Japan licensed release etc. from MIZUKI of Ice Grills who is doing Japanese license from THE STORY SO FAR, STATE CHAMPS etc. Also he is doing tour. It is the totally different with my old label. So tried to start my new label again under Nerds record store and we tried to release Desolated releases etc. But recently we are doing just license release and also some exclusive products on my label. So now I'm mixing new (RERIBUTE) and old things(local releases exclusive through RETRIBUTION) on my RETRIBUTE RECORDS. It is going well and having fun to get release. sometimes big bands license with bonus tracks or sometimes exclusive CDedtion etc. We released LIFELESS exclusive CD last year and they did Japan tour. Great to share time with favorite bands and it feels more than just music.
What do you consider a successful release to be? When all of the copies sell? When it helps a band get their music known so that their shows in Japan are better? When you make your money back on the release?
Japanese hardcore marketing is much smaller than US/EURO. When I released 500 CDs on my label, I think 100-400 CDs sell. I need to see how to make more better sales but if I get to recover cost from pressing, I don't care about profit. Of course wanna try to sell more copies but still working to find best way to distribution/promoting for the band.
You also run a record store strongly based around hardcore, metal and punk called Nerds Records. It’s truly an amazing spot. Would the store be able to exist on its own without the support of all of the mail order you do for your label based out of the shop?
Yeah, I'm having fun everything at NERDS RECORD STORE. Its a miracle. I didn't think physical record store works well for 3 years in the modern age haha. It depends on a month, week but all business is supporting my store. Distro, label, customer who visit to shop etc. me and Mizuki is other owner of Nerds so we are handling everything by ourselves.
How do you feel as though the Japanese record/CD shopping scene is in comparison to America or other places you’ve been? I personally found it to be a haven in comparison to the US scene.
I haven't been to record store in the other countries so would love to visit some famous punk/hardcore record store like Generation X or Coretex etc. If we get more big size store, we would love to do many things like store live, more tons wide hardcore/ punk stuff. my wish will be moving to more big place haha.
You’ve been doing this for a while yet seemingly just hit the reset button with the label re-launch. How much longer do you foresee yourself doing this? How many more releases?
I have many release schedule in 2017. DESPAIR, DRAWING LAST BREATH on RETRIBUTE RECORDS and 2 more relases by summer. excited about them! I have some more plan and wanna release japanese bands release too. Will see Whats would be the cool release on my label. I keep it Strong and never give up to stop release like my old both label lol.
The next two released lined up for Hiro's label, Retribute Records is the CD version of the Despair discography and a CD version of the Drawing Last Breath full length. Both copies will be carried here at Preserving Silence whenever they are released!