Label Spotlight: Malignant Records Evokes “Traditional Industrial Music”

Interview with label owner Jason Mantis by Eric May

Malignant Records might sound like a sort of dark ambient/noise label to some, but label owner Jason Mantis insists that it’s a label that evokes the sound of “traditional industrial music” before the “untz untz” and “gothic fashion crowd” had their way with it and bastardized the term in the process. He discussed how the label began as well as the difficulty required in managing it, as well as some of the albums that made him want to pursue this career in the first place. Additionally, he also gave us a sneak peak at some new material that we can expect from Malignant and Black Plague Records in the coming months… if we all don’t die from Ebola first!

Jason, tell me a little about the label and how it began. What made you want to start a label that deals primarily in atmospheres?

The label evolved out of a magazine I was doing in the early ‘90s called Audio Drudge. Each issue came with a compilation cassette of the bands interviewed, and over time the requests started coming to put everything on CD. Doing that would have resulted in a fairly unfocused compilation, so instead I chose some of the bands that I had worked with for the magazine to create new material with a thematic guideline. At the time (1993) Ebola was just starting to make the news and hacking was becoming an issue, so I asked them to create a track based on “the sonic recreation of the infiltration of viruses” and thus the Invisible Domains compilation and Malignant was born. Seems only fitting and prophetic that the twenty year anniversary of the label is marked by the worst outbreak of Ebola in history…I couldn’t have planned it better myself. Overall, the label just reflects my taste. I never went into it thinking I was going to be exclusively a dark ambient, industrial or power electronics label, though it has generally stayed within those confines. I released what I liked. But as my tastes have gone back to metal over the last few years; don’t be completely surprised if there’s some of that popping up, especially on the side label, Black Plagve. Yet it’ll still make sense to my audience that expects a particular sound and aesthetic.

What were some of the hardships starting out in this business and what advice would you have for those who are also looking to start their own label?

The hardships never end, but they’re very different now than when I began. Back then, it was a matter of securing distribution and trying to get the Malignant name out there. But there was a real sense of fanaticism and a true underground movement that drove sales and established the name. Twenty years into this and in many respects, it’s harder to survive than it was in the beginning. The positives are that visibility is much greater with social media and the internet, but physical sales are at an all-time low and people’s interests are pulled in so many different directions. That being said; the advice I’d give to any upstart label is to stay true to your vision and with some level of success, be prepared to give up those nights lounging in front of the TV or dicking around in general. I work a full time day job, have a wife and two kids and do Malignant in every spare hour I have, which isn’t that many. That means getting up at five in the morning to answer e-mails, update the site, do promotions, pack orders, and generally stay up much later than I should to do the same. If you don’t have the devotion to make it work, then don’t bother. The world doesn’t need another passionless, half-ass label releasing inferior material.

What are some of your favorite albums of all time? Additionally, what was the one album that got you into this kind of music in the first place?

I think it depends on the context. My favorite albums of all time are probably Iron Maiden’s Killers and Piece of Mind, but I think you’re probably asking me about the albums that were more influential to the formation and direction of Malignant. The answer to that would be the following: Test Dept’s Unacceptable Face of Freedom, S.P.K.’s Leichenschrei, Genocide Organ’s Mind Control, Megaptera’s You Will Never Survive This Nightmare, Illusion of Safety’s More Violence and Geography, and most of the early Cold Meat Industry discography. All of these are stylistically different albums, but visionary and unique in their atmosphere. Hard for me to point to one album in particular, but I want to say that the Illusion of Safety album was one of the first true industrial records that I bought back in 1988 and the one that showed me there was dark and provocative music outside of metal. I always had a thirst for underground and undiscovered music and was heavily invested in the tape trading metal scene from ’81-’87, but I was starting to get disenfranchised with the homogenization of metal and punk in ’88 (which is slightly humorous looking back considering some of the releases that came that year and the years following) and this style of music offered a new outlet for me to explore.

Despite the myriad of rock, metal, punk and other labels out there; atmospheric labels are almost non-existent. What do the musicians have to offer on your label, that other types of genres don’t?

First and foremost; let me say this. I consider Malignant to be an industrial label. The term or label has been hijacked and bastardized by the “untz untz” or “gothic fashion” crowd, but what I try to capture and what I look for are acts that adhere to the more traditional aspects of the genre definition and yet are doing something unique – dark, unsettling and provocative music, some of which falls into a more ambient/atmospheric realm, and some of which is more agitating and incendiary, but either way, I hope it stays true to the foundations laid down by the old guard. There’s probably more atmospheric labels out there than you may realize, but there are very few that don’t deviate into some subgenre, whether it be martial industrial, neo-folk, harsh noise or whatever. So I hope that people look to Malignant expecting a certain quality of sound (even if it’s varied and the methods of composition are often times very different) and they’re rewarded with something that delivers and that they want to return to on multiple occasions.

What can we expect next from Malignant?

Far too much. I typed it up the other day and was shocked at how irresponsible my commitments are. (Laughs) Suffice it to say, I’m pretty booked up through at least the first half of 2015 if not beyond. Releases slated for the next few months however include Sewer Goddess Painlust, which from the few tracks I’ve heard is just astounding. More metal than electronic perhaps, but terrifyingly dark and beyond anything she or anyone else has done before. Can’t wait for it. Theologian’s Pain of the Saints 2CD is coming together, which signifies a return for Lee Bartow to the Malignant roster following the ending of his prior project, Navicon Torture Technologies. More imminent would be a 2CD from Obscene Noise Corporation, compiling new and unreleased material with older material; like super dirty primitive electronic filth from the legendary Peter Nystrom (Megaptera, Negru Voda) and then some ritualistic, occult ambience from Italy’s Somnium. Oh and at the plant and out in later October, is the S.K.K.N.P. Death Instruktions LP, which is a collaborative project from members of Steel Hook Prostheses, Megaptera/Negru Voda, Shock Frontier and Murderous Vision. Total depravity and nightmarish death industrial which is limited to 250 copies.

Thanks for answering my questions and I wish you the best of luck with Malignant and Black Plague Records! – Eric

Read reviews for the following Malignant Records releases:

Terra Sancta – Exile

Theologian / – Hubrizine

Teeth Engraved With The Names Of The Dead – Starving The Fires Pt.1

Isolator – Culture And Principal Of Human Exaltation

Gnawed – Feign And Cloak

Deathstench – Massed In Black Shadow

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