Chad Gailey is an Oakland resident and owner, operator, ogre in chief behind Carbonized Records. It’s astounding to think that the man would find the hours in the day to run a record label while playing full-time in two of the ugliest, upstart death metal bands in the country, Necrot and Mortuous. When not sawing through ears and expectations with his mighty axe, he manages to summon the strength and mental fortitude to put on his business pants (presumably, of a higher thread count than his usual trousers) to crunches numbers and fulfills mail orders, all so you can have some heavy tunes to headbang to. He’s like Atlas, holding a tiny planet aloft, but with better hair.
I’ve been curious about Carbonized Records ever since I noticed that they co-released Mortuous’s debut record with Tankcrimes. I figured that the labels had some connection beyond simply sharing great taste in metal, but I had no idea how instrumental the relationship was to the formation of Carbonized until I had a chance to interview Chad and read the story for myself. Without giving too much away, it essentially proves that it is in fact possible to make lifelong friends (and a living!) in punk and metal. If you’re a decent human being and have the drive to succeed, friendship and opportunity are sure to come your way. You might not be able to start a label as cool as Carbonized, but you’ll probably resent your life choices a little less at the end of the day.
The impetuous for this interview came after my review of Oakland crust punks Isotope’s self-titled compilation went live on this site as part of our Bandcamp of the Day series (more or less an Album of the Day series). Chad had released the compilation on cassette and seemed to like my write-up quite a bit. We got to chatting over email and I eventually just blurted out that I wanted to do a feature on his label. Luckily, Chad took me up on the offer and the rest speaks for itself… literally, you can read our interview below.
Don’t forget to check out Chad’s record picks to get you started in exploring his label’s back-catalog at the bottom of the article. Everything Chad puts out is great and worth a spin, but today he’s really serving up the crème de la crème brutale!
Interview conducted over email on February 26, 2021. It has been slightly edited in the interest of clarity.
How long have you been running Carbonized Records?
I started Carbonized in 2018 and have released twelve records as of February 2021.
How did the label get its start?
The label started because of Mortuous. When we finished recording our album, Through Wilderness, we wanted to go with a label that would professionally promote the release and ensure that it would reach a wide audience. My other band, Necrot, had success with Tankcrimes and so I wanted them to put the record out. Unfortunately, Scotty wasn’t able to commit to it so I told him I was going to start a label and release it myself. Scotty then said he would help me get my label started with this album and we would co-release with me. Scotty got me linked up with a pressing plant, a distributor, and a PR firm to get things moving in the right direction. I can’t thank him enough for all the help he’s given me since I started and over the past three years of doing the label.
Where does the name “Carbonized” come from?
I ultimately wanted a really dark and ugly name for the label. Something that would match the type of music I wanted to release. I kept going back and forth for a while between a few name ideas. I settled with Carbonized because I thought it was the best idea so far and it thankfully hadn’t been used before (besides by Swedish death metal legends of the same name of course). It also had some reinforcement from an extremely vivid dream I had a couple of weeks ahead of making a final decision.
I love the face you have on your logo. Is it some kind of mummy? Where did your logo come from?
Haha! That’s one I haven’t heard yet but I can see it! The face is just the image of a person who has been carbonized. My friend Marald Van Haasteren drew the figure for me, which he eventually dubbed as “Mr. Crispy,” at the end of 2017. I gave him a rough idea of what I wanted with some examples and he came up with the logo afterwards. I wanted it to resemble a Crass Records 7” cover where a memorably-striking image is contained within the circle. I grew up listening to and collecting Crass Records along with their roster artists and always loved the artwork presented with each release. I want my logo to hook people on the first glance and allow them to interpret what it may or may not be for themselves.
Has the pandemic affected your ability to put out records?
The pandemic actually allowed me to focus on the label full time! I’m usually releasing records in between touring with my bands. But when the pandemic shut everything down, I was able to fully dedicate myself to get things going for future label releases. I usually work on stuff every day whether it’s just doing orders or preparing for the next release. With each record I release, the amount of work increases so it’s essential to stay on top of everything so I don’t fall behind.
Are there any records that you’ve lost the chance to put out due to the hardships you’ve suffered this past year?
Yeah unfortunately there were a few albums that I wasn’t able to commit to. Touring with all the bands allows me to finance the label so the pandemic completely cut things off. Thankfully, everything I have released sells regularly and I’ve been able to still put out new records even if it’s at a slower pace than I originally expected.
How has COVID effected the metal scene in Oakland?
Well, all the venues had to shut down. That was probably the main thing allowing underground music to thrive. I know that a lot of bands had to stop playing for a while when the pandemic first started. I think most bands are just practicing and writing right now. There’s not really much else anyone can do until it’s safe to play live again.
Besides your own, what labels are putting out your favorite metal albums right now?
Favorite 2020 Metal and Punk labels in Alphabetical Order: 20 Buck Spin, Dark Descent, Dawnbreed, Debemur Morti, Extremely Rotten, Headsplit, Hells Headbangers, I Voidhanger, Iron Bonehead, Iron Lung, Lunar Tomb, Me Saco Un Ojo, Necrotic Doom, Night Shroud, Nuclear War Now!, Profound Lore, Steel & Bone, Tankcrimes, Transylvanian Recordings, and Woodsmoke.
Why is it important to keep labels like yours and others that push quality death metal alive?
It’s important because people aren’t really buying physical music anymore. Sure, there are some bands and labels selling more than others, but pressing quantities have continuously decreased over the years so that labels aren’t stuck sitting on hundreds of copies of the records they produce. There is so much competition out there to remain relevant that a lot of over-saturation inevitably tends to happen as well. New labels especially have more work to do if they want to receive any sort of attention. I think the best way to answer this would be to support labels and record stores that release the music you like and buy physical media from them. I would also encourage people to escape your own digital echo-chamber from time to time and look for new music as well. All the music you like already isn’t going anywhere. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve discovered amazing new metal and punk bands just by taking a chance and keeping an open mind.
Have you been able to do any work with any of your bands during COVID, or have things been on hold?
All of the bands have been on hold until it’s safe to practice and play live again. Mortuous has been writing our second record individually at home but we hope to record it by the end of this year.
Can you give us any info about what records you’re looking to put out in 2021?
By the time this interview is probably out, I will have just announced a new album for Steel Bearing Hand entitled Slay In Hell. It’s a monster of a record and I can’t wait for people to hear it in full. More releases will follow of course but are going to remain a surprise to those who follow the label.
Dive into the world of Carbonized with these selected recordings from the label’s back-catalog:
Mortuous – Through Wilderness
I started Carbonized in 2018 because of Through Wilderness. I joined Mortuous in 2014 when Col Jones (Exhumed, Cretin) left the band. I had seen Mortuous evolve from a serious one-man-band project, to the crushing death metal band it was destined to be. Colin Tarvin and I had been playing in bands together for years before I joined Mortuous so it was awesome to be in another band with him.
We started recording Through Wilderness at the end of 2016 and finished it a year later. We all knew this record was sick and wanted to make sure it got the recognition it deserved so we started looking for a label. Because of the success Necrot had on Tankcrimes with Blood Offerings, I wanted to have Tankcrimes release the Mortuous album too. When I called Scotty to see if he was interested in releasing it, he passed, which in turn led me to tell him that I was going to start a label and release the record myself. Scotty immediately told me that he wanted to help me build the label and offered to help release the record with me too. Scotty became my mentor and got me set up with a pressing plant, a distributor, and a PR firm. This gave me a huge head start because I had no idea where to even begin, I just had the drive to make it happen.
The album was released at the end of June in 2018 and was well-received throughout the underground. Dawnbreed Records and Extremely Rotten Productions released additional LP, CD, and Cassette versions which helped spread the record across Europe. The success of Through Wilderness allowed Mortuous to tour the West Coast and make appearances at numerous national and international festivals. This has been the most successful record I’ve released so far, and I learned a lot from it. All the lessons help me along the way with each new record I release. At the end of the day I’m thankful for my bandmates in trusting me with putting the record out as well as Scotty for his patience and helpfulness.
Chthonic Deity – Reassembled In Pain
Chthonic Deity’s Reassembled In Pain was the seventh release I did with the label. I’ve known Erika Osterhout for about ten years now. I was lucky enough to play in Scolex for a few shows and release the Scolex / Mortuous split 7” back when the label first started. I really wanted to release this demo as soon as I heard it. Erika and Charlie Koryn (Ascended Dead) had been working on this demo on and off for a few years and it sounded sick. Paul Riedl (Blood Incantation, Spectral Voice) joined the band later providing additional guitar and vocals. He would eventually help co-release the demo with me through his label, Woodsmoke. The demo, released in 2019, saw two pressings of the 7” and a cassette release by Erika’s label, Lunar Tomb Records. Dawnbreed Records and Extremely Rotten Productions co-released the Reassembled In Pain +2 compilation tape of the Reassembled In Pain demo and the two tracks from the split with Runemagick entitled, ChthonicMagick. Burning Coffin Records from Chile just released the CD version of that tape a few weeks ago.
Funeral Leech – Death Meditation
The last album I wanted to talk about was Death Meditation. I wasn’t familiar with Funeral Leech until Lucas Anderson (drums/vocals) wrote me and asked if I was interested in releasing Death Meditation on the label. I found out later that Erika Osterhout (Chthonic Deity/Scolex) recommended me to Lucas since the band was actively looking for a label. After the first listen to the album, I remember playing it again immediately. I did that about three times in a row. It’s always awesome going into an album not knowing what to expect and ending up really liking it. A nice surprise. Within a year of the album’s initial 2020 release, Death Meditation has sold out of the First and Second LP press. The Third Press is currently at the pressing plant and we are very excited to unveil it. Death Meditation also saw a limited CD and Cassette release courtesy of Dawnbreed Records and Steel & Bone Productions.
Photos courtesy of Carbonized Records.