INTUITION AND PASSION - an interview with Roberto Mammarella (Avantgarde Music) pt. II

Last time we published the first part of our interview with Roberto Mammarella, famous owner of Avantgarde Music label - whose you have the Italian version at this link.
Now we come back with the second part, with the Italian version too.

    U. : Has the target of the label changed too?

R. : I don't think so. Avantgarde has always been an "open-minded" label, even though it has always kept a black/doom metal model. I have never produced death metal but once with Avulsed and Behemoth, which most people considered as death metal. I have also published Ataraxia, Dark Sanctuary... I have always dealt with a bit of everything.
What I like is that people, even if I produced groups from different genres, know that there was a common thread: the taste of the person who signed them. Obviously you don't have to love whatever Avantgarde or a particular label in general has produced.
Instead what I have always avoided is inking the groups with the sign of majors like Century Media or Nuclear Blast.
Now Season Of Mist too tries to escape from the underground to be more like these two majors, as a matter of fact it doesn't produce debut bands anymore.

Now talking about the web-debate about Season Of Mist [he refers to the owner Micheal Berberian's famous message post on Facebook]: what scared me was not the fact that he mocked the Italian bands, I just laughed it up. What scared me was the quote in which he said: "I don't mind about you, fuck up! I don't even listen to you!".
The first thing I do in the morning is listen to the e-mails of the groups because I live thanks to them, and I'm pleased to have signed a talented one. Instead he says directly: "Don't send me your demos to me 'cause they suck at 99%". This is absurd! If I were a customer, I wouldn't buy a single CD from this label anymore. It doesn't mean that if Season Of Mist published one of my favorite band's album, I wouldn't buy or listen to it. What he didn't realize is that by thinking this way he kills the development of new bands. Like saying we declare the death of this musical genre, so stop the new generations from playing. I'm the opposite: I'm favorable to the early retirement of certain groups...

    U. : I would ask you the question about Season Of Mist later, but you've already answered me so let's change question: on the official website, on 'MISSION', I read this felt phrase: "It was a big delusion and FAILURE to realise that i was arriving at work at morning with a “i wanna go home” feeling… and this lead to a big shake and break in the end of 2010.". What happened to you during that period? Why this oppressive sensation?

R. : Because I felt as if I was suffocating. At the time I was involved with the label and the shop with two partners. I was the founder of Avantagarde in '94, then Sound Cave was born in '96, so we were three partners in management. At that point, even if I was the legal father of the label, there were these people who influenced me too much, and very often in a negative way.
I was bored of always having to compare myself with my colleagues, who responded to you without interest or by simply saying: "Well, I don't know... It is probably better to ink another group which is sure to sell..." So you're forced to respond: "Well, do as you prefer!"
Moreover I left them the management of the label, which means I was obliged to publish some full-lenghts of groups which I hadn't signed for.
So mine was a willingness to escape which you can't have if you do this kind of job. If a person thinks he has given everything for the label and the shop, well, I think it's time to leave it. Indeed four years ago one of my partners totally changed work, he has left the musical scene. The other one, instead, left saying that he didn't want to produce metal anymore. One year later I discovered that he founded another label: Dusktone!
So the fact was not a personal reason, probably a personal feeling: instead of risking to destroy everything, it's right that one decides to leave... Not me! [he laughs]

    U. : But now do you get along with your colleagues?

R. : [he laughs] Now yes. At the beginning I was looking for another partner for to take their place, despite the past. I was searching for a partner simply because you can't earn enough to live on. You have to work hard, there are months with an income and months without. That's the situation: you're in or not.
The shop has to be stocked up. Sometimes you have to spend more for the shop than for the label...

    U. : So I want to overturn the question: why the necessity of opening up a shop besides a label? As you have pointed out, it is a hard job...
Picture of the shop - the King's throne.

R. : At the time the shop was a great idea since there wasn't a specialized record shop for extreme metal scene in Milan, except for Mariposa which sold a little bit of metal. But a specifically extreme record shop didn't exist.
The shop was the "cash" of the label. Managing a label meant giving consignement albums to the distributors. On the contrary in a shop there's an immediate repayment.
Now Sound Cave is a completely different reality compared to the past: there are times when there is nothing to do, or else Saturdays when you are quite busy.
Only managing the label means totally vanishing as a retailer, you would only depend on selling it. There's no other way. Otherwise you can work at home with your own shipments with zero costs, but that's another story. Closing down the shop for working in an office with less than a quarter of purchases is not worth it.

Picture of the shop - the BIG shelf

    U. : Since I'm a real bastard inside, now I want to play with you. I would like to ask you some "breaking questions": you have to answer instantly and then explain the reason of this choice to me...

    The best band produced by Avantgarde.

R. : Katatonia, because I listen to them with pleasure, I think they are still important today and also because they succeeded without me.

    The worst one?

R. : Avulsed, but in a relative sense not for those who buy them but for me since I produced them. Drowning the Light, but I could say more [he laughs] Even today with groups still inked!

    Which instead is the one who had never been produced by Avantgarde, but that you extremely desired to produce. Even out-of-metal

R. : Do I have to respond in a realistic way? [he laughs] As I have to choose, utopically Depeche Mode, while in metal I would die happily with Anathema. Moreover I made an album with the former bassist of Anathema [Duncan Patterson] with his project Alternative 4. I fulfilled a dream with him.

As nowadays... [he thinks it over] Not Italian ones... Skepticism, but 'cause it is ten yers that they have been promising it to me, but there are still more in the list... I could say Oranssi Pazuzu too.

    U. : Now we have reached the last question: what are your future projects for the label?

R. : Worldwide scoop! [he laughs] The forthcoming release is Darkspace's DVD/Blu-Ray, something that will give a certain impact to fanatics and followers... The other one is something which attracts me even if it will be a complete disaster in economic terms: the soundtrack of a Norwegian movie entitled Morgenrøde [directed by Anders Elsrud Hultgreen, music by Ole Petter Sørum]. It's not a black metal soundtrack but a dark ambient one, which is the only card I had left out. It is not Twin Peaks, but at least I will have the satisfaction of not publishing just musical albums.

I would like to thank you Roberto Mammarella for his time and courtesy and Noemi Valceschini for her contribution to the translation and editing.

Interview by Mara "Unia" Zanetti (C) 03/10/2015
Translation and editing by Mara "Unia" Zanetti and Noemi "Noe" Valceschini (C).

for the Italian version, check at this link.