How fitting right?
That being my theme of Demolish Fanzine (being 80’s Retrospective) and for this special post with Sam from Retrospect Records that is, yup—a “Match made in 80’s Heavy Metal Heaven“!
Retrospect Records is an up n’ coming indie record company that advertises themselves as “The Worlds Largest” Hard Rock , Metal and AOR reissue label. I am glad there are companies out there like Retrospect, as there are so many great releases that deserve more attention in modern times—whether they were neglected the first time around in the 80’s (for whatever reason) and or to just get the rockin’ music out to more peeps in our current “digital world”. I see this as a win-win situation as the “old dogs” like myself can score some re-mastered releases and “relive” that era perhaps with the nostalgic re-issued CD’s and the newbies out there can discover some great/rockin’ tunes that might help pollute their “virgin” ears!
After a bit of required research, I compiled some inquisitive questions and swiftly fired them off to this Las Vegas-based label boss/CEO Sam McCaslin. Much to my surprize, I received said interview questions back faster than I could even create this post title! I have nothing but mad respect for that level of dedication and this shows just what type of person this guy is! So what type of person is Mr. McCaslin? Well, plop in your favorite 80’s Metal CD and feast your eyes below for the 411.
According to your website you are: “dedicated to preserving 80’s-style” music, what made you want to do this and or how did this get started?
SAM: I always felt the decade of decadence was an extremely special time for music. It was fun, motivating, inspiring and most of all, entertaining. Everything was over the top but that’s how music should be. It should always make you feel good. When the 90’s came around and into the early 2000’s, I was sickened by the state of the music industry. Angst-ridden or depressing no-talent hacks were ruling the airwaves and the media (i.e. Clear Channel) was doing everything they good to kill off anything 80’s. I wanted to do something to preserve our genre and speak out against the monopoly of B.S. that permeated everything I stood for. I damn sure didn’t spend years learning my instrument for some clueless corporate boneheads to make fun of an entire generation of extraordinary talent.
Well put! I see that you had a booth at this years M3 Festival. How was the event for you guys?
M3 was excellent. We made many new friends and got to introduce our artists to lots of avid 80’s metal fans. Our band MASS got on the bill so we wanted to support the event as much as possible. M3 is the most professionally ran festival of any we have encountered. I hope we can return in 2011 with many more of our acts.
I noticed that you also had a booth at the Rocklahoma Festival. Was that pivotal for the label as that seems like your target audience—all in one place! That must have been a dream come true for you!
There’s a long story of how we got involved in Rocklahoma but ultimately it was the culmination of everything I worked so hard to achieve. In 2008 we had something like 25 or 30 bands reform after 20 years and play for the greatest 80’s fans in America. In 2009 I had the luxury of running 3 side stages at Rocklahoma where we had around 60 bands perform—many of them Retrospect artists. It was extremely hard work but I like to think my company and staff earned much respect that year even if the attendance was down a bit. The bands we brought in were fantastic and it was a pleasure working with all of them. From Baton Rouge, Warrior, Icon to Wildstreet to Mass and Silent Rage. I can’t tell you how many times I broke down at Rocklahoma. It’s a passion, it’s in my blood…I live for this! We also had a stage this year too and so many friends who believe in what we are doing. It’s an honor to be a part of the 80’s Revival.
“I can’t tell you how many times I broke down at Rocklahoma.” – SM
Enlighten us on why a band would choose to re-release their music and or back catalog with you VS the other companies out there doing similar re-issues? In other words, what is distinctive about a Retrospect production?
I don’t know if we necessarily have a “distinct” production. I believe more than anything that the bands know that they are working with someone who is a musician himself and knows how it feels being on the other side of the desk. Some people say I am too honest with the bands, but that’s the way I am. There’s way too many crooks in this industry and so bands know they are getting what we agree on. I always pay my artists and I think they appreciate that I am not just a CEO but a fan of their music. Retrospect Records pays better royalties than any other company.
I think we are the first record company in the world to pay more to the artist than what we get! We release more CD’s than any other label in the world, that’s the bottom line. We do about 100 releases a year and no other re-issue label (or otherwise) can compete with that. I think we’ve earned a lot of respect in the industry and the bands know we are serious about having them play the festivals, which is a big plus. There are a few others doing what we do and I’m glad to see any 80’s Rock/Metal being re-issued. Ultimately though, we have the traffic and the distribution. After almost 500 releases, fans of 80’s Rock know how serious we are and we aren’t going away anytime soon.
Walk us through a typical work day for you and or your staff.
In the beginning of the week, it’s all about processing payments and shipping orders. By the end of the week it’s focusing on getting the next releases into production. My phone rings non-stop and it is difficult to keep up with so many bands, but somehow we manage. This is a 12 hour a day job for me and I’m glad I have a few people helping out. I couldn’t do it alone and don’t know how I did it in the beginning.
What are the greatest challenges you face with your business in 2010?
The economy for sure. CD sales have definitely slowed down, but not really from outside the U.S. Germany and Japan are huge markets for us and if it wasn’t for them, we would have more difficulty surviving. The thing I can’t stand is these Bloggers putting our releases up for free download around the world. Free downloading is killing the industry in so many ways. At some point the government needs to step in and do something. In 2009 illegal downloading was the cause of the entertainment industry losing over 2 trillion dollars in revenue and that number is expected to double in 2010. There are millions of people who are employed in the industry and it’s going to “hell-in-a-hand-basket.” That’s a story for another day though.
Is the record label your primary job? What do you like to do for fun outside of working on projects for the label?
It’s definitely my primary job now. I was a full-time musician for many years before getting involved in this label. Now I only play a few times a month but it’s really fun for me now. I don’t get a lot of R & R time but I do like traveling, talent-scouting and playing golf (laughing,—yeah it’s actually fun for me). Spending time with my son is #1 though!
It was brought to my attention (thanks Stone! -ed) that you were a musician yourself, tell us more about that please.
Yes, I started playing keyboards when I was about 14. I lived in England during my teens and it was the greatest time of my life. I did a lot of writing and recording during those years and hundreds of gigs. It was an awesome time. By 1994 I decided to move to the U.S. and become a rock star. Keyboards were only dominant in Country Music by that time so I toured in various country acts til’ my move to Las Vegas in 1997. Once I moved here, that’s when I got to meet a lot of my peers and actually work with some great artists—like Ron Keel, Michael Schenker, Carmine Appice, Chris Slade, XYZ, Silent Rage, Baton Rouge and countless others.
I currently play in an 80’s cover band here called ARENA and also play in a band called Monsters of Classic Rock with some great guys. I am hoping to record my own album soon—that’s really my next big goal.
“I am hoping to record my own album soon—that’s really my next big goal.” - SM
Where can fans buy your releases? Also what type of physical distribution do you have stateside and also for Europe?
We have a ton of distributors carrying our products in Japan, Greece, Japan, U.K., Italy, France and Sweden. I don’t do much physical distribution to brick and mortar stores (a traditional “street-side” business -ed) here in the USA. There’s a few stores carrying our product but most of our U.S. distribution is internet-based.
Where are the main spots in which you promote your product and or music?
Our website of course and we also do a lot of business with Melodic Rock.com, Heavy Harmonies, Glory-Daze Music, Powerplay Magazine, Rock Report in Belgium and Rock Eyez etc. Believe it or not, we have done a lot of marketing on eBay and that’s definitely been a winner.
Do you have MP3 downloads available anywhere?
We have some over at Melodic Downloads. We are going to introduce downloads on our website and I am also negotiating a deal with Tune Core to bring our entire catalog to places like I-Tunes, Rhapsody, Amazon etc.
How long do you think CD’s will be “officially” supported by fans and available? Is it less-expensive to manufacture product now that so much of the music is sold online via downloads?
I think the price of CD manufacturing has pretty much bottomed out now. I believe within a short time, the CD will become obsolete and only obtained by the die-hard older fans who actually like getting physical product for their money. By 2015 all teenagers will be downloading.
Do you re-master the artists music or do they have to give you the finished masters?
We try to re-master as much as we can. It is preferred that the artist brings a completed master though because they are usually happy with that product. We always try to use the best source material available. Sometimes it’s reels, sometimes it’s cassettes and sometimes it’s vinyl. We are pretty picky about the end result though.
I remember a lot of the underground bands you have such as: Fortnox, Silent Rage, Pandemonium, Blitzkrieg, D.C. Star etc. As a matter of fact, I have most of their original releases on LP. Who are the top three best-selling acts currently on your roster?
- Stranger (Florida)
- Mariah (PA-based, originally signed under Bon Jovi’s wing)
- Freakshow (Frankie Banali, Jeff LaBar, Tony Franklin & Markus Allen Christopher)
I am a Malice fan, I see you have a title available called “Rare and Unreleased”, can you give us the scoop on that rare find?
I am friends with Jay Reynolds, the guitarist. He said they had some unreleased demos lying around and I asked him if he was interested in releasing it with some of the harder-to-obtain Metal Blade stuff. He was very cool about it and we put a compilation of it together and put it out. Really cool stuff! Malice rocks!
I noticed a “Retro Thrash Records” logo on your web site, is that something new you are working on? What do you think of the current “Thrash Revival” that is taking place?
There’s a lot of killer Thrash bands out now and it’s awesome that many bands like Death Angel and Lääz Rockit have reformed. I was one of the few that liked Glam and Thrash [in the 80's] so when I had the opportunity to sign a few Thrash acts, I thought hey, let’s do a Retro-Thrash thing and see what happens. I think we have released a dozen CD’s under the Retro-Thrash moniker.
Any chance of releasing vinyl again? Some people say it’s dead, some peeps say it never died, but nonetheless there must be a “renewed” interest of some sort as I just went into a local Best Buy recently and they have NEW vinyl for sale as does Coconut’s Music.
My brother swears by vinyl now and he does a lot of sales on eBay. It’s the only format that can’t be pirated. I have considered releasing some things on vinyl but I don’t really know what outlets would sell it for me. Guess I need to do some more research, but yes, I am open to it.
Who are some bands that you would love to have signed on your label that have excellent [out of print] titles just waiting to be re-mastered for 2010?
Good question, let’s see… New Haven and Garrison (a couple of killer obscure bands from the late 80’s). I’m really proud to get the Pandemonium stuff out at last. All-Sports Band (early 80’s AOR), Doomwatch and Fortress (killer 80’s Thrash). Wow, I’d really have to think about this one for a while. So much stuff!
Who came up with that excellent guitar-shaped cooler that is for sale on your site? That cracked me up. I would love to have one of those limited edition (only 1,000 made) promos!
We found a place on the strip in Vegas that was selling them and I asked them if I could buy 500 or something from their stock. I pretty much wiped em’ out and they’ve been a nice little seller for the festivals—definitely a unique idea and we’re very happy to introduce them to folks.
I noticed some Beatles re-issue CD’s from your company, was that due to Michael Jackson’s passing in any way? Wasn’t he the copyright holder for their massive collection?
Those are just box sets I picked up in Europe. We haven’t released any Beatles product under our label (I wish), I just had a few box sets to sell.
Is this a possible new direction for the company or just a one-off opportunity?
Nah, it’s just a one-off thing. We’ll never deviate from the 80’s Rock/Metal sound.
There are so many great 80’s bands and releases out there. Who are some of your fav. bands of that era? Who is your favorite band on your label now?
Another tough question. I am a huge Marillion fan for sure. Of course the biggies like Def Leppard, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and some of the lesser known acts like Dare, FM, Tobruk, Icon, Fifth Angel and Sword. Fave band on my label currently and—I plead the 5th if any of them read this. I am partial to Mariah, Defcon and Wildstreet.
What do you miss about the 80’s music scene?
The excitement. The over-the-top performances. The fun. The hot looking women. The musicianship. The fact that good music was mainstream. For example: remember how excited people got when the new Motley or Priest album was coming out? We’d all talk about it. Nobody ever talks about how they are soooo anticipating the new Nickelback or Godsmack albums. Think about it.
What were the best concerts and live shows you attended in the 80’s?
Rush “Hold Your Fire” Tour at Wembley Stadium. Slayer at the Hammersmith Odeon. Those two really stick out for me, but the one I really cherished was Marillion’s “Brave” tour….what a show!!
Was their Hammersmith Odeon show one of the best in the 80’s?
What did “80’s Metal” mean to you? Some people relate to all the “hair” bands or “hair metal” as it is often called. Some like the heavier “Thrash” bands or other styles and genres.
I liked it all. It was the attitude, the look, the musicianship, the show. It was the complete package (and the morons at the big labels killed it).
Did “grunge” music kill Metal? → this is a “pet peeve” question of mine, but I have to ask (especially since everyone seems to be so opinionated on this topic)!
“Hair” Metal was getting a little homogenized by 1992, so I blame it more on the corporate clowns than any particular genre. Yeah I hated “grunge” and still do. It lasted 2 or 3 years and was more of a fad than “Hair Metal” ever was. Think about this: Thrash bands like Megadeth, Wrathchild America and Testament were on Major Labels. Maiden, Priest = Major Labels. Glam like Tuff and D’Molls were on Major Labels. Lynch Mob, Hardline, Heavens Edge and Babylon A.D. = Major Labels. Richard Marx, Henry Lee Summer and Michael freakin’ Bolton = Major Labels.
As soon as grunge hit, all of what I just mentioned above were dropped by the majors. It was all about money. These “bigwigs” over at Sony figured they could make a grunge record for $5,000 or $10,000 and pocket the rest. I mean why spend $500K on a new Def Leppard album when they could line their own pockets? Spend less, make more. I wish people would stop arguing and debating over the decline of Metal in the early 90’s. It’s a no-brainer. I just explained it in a few sentences—MONEY.
Other than Demolish [laughs], what are the best 80’s Retro Websites and or Blogs out there that you read regularly or have come across?
MelodicRock.com, Rock Report, Glory Daze and Heavy Harmonies are the top dogs for sure!
Back in the day, the fanzines supported the underground bands and helped launch many careers—especially since there was little to no radio airplay (not to mention, no internet or cell phones etc.). I liken the current online blogs to the fanzines of the 80’s -what are your thoughts on this?
I agree. It really does depend on your readers though. There’s a lot more web zines now than there ever were mags. It’s really competitive as I’m sure you know. I also think there are a crap-load more bands now than there were 25 years ago too. Too many hacks who learn 3 chords and think they can record an album. “Puh-lease”, you should hear some of the crap I get sent. My dog plays better!
What do you think about the current Rock/Hard Rock & Metal scene?
I think it’s fantastic in Europe. They have been the kings of Rock and Metal since grunge hit over here, in my opinion. Europeans have amazing bands and can appreciate talent more it seems. Look at the genres over there: Power Metal, Progressive, Gothic, Thrash, Melodic Death, AOR, Glam -they are destroying everyone else now in every aspect. Have you heard what’s coming out of those guys? Unbelievable stuff.
When Americans stop being sheep to Clear Channel and realize there is more out there than the Nickelbacks’, Godsmacks‘, Lifehouses’, Daughtrys’ and David Cooks (and all the other offshoots of Pearl Jam‘s “Kermit the Frog-style” singing), then the market will become healthier here. USA really reeks right now for true rock n’ roll. It’s sad but true.
What are your plans and or goals for Retrospect?
We’re gonna keep releasing as much quality underground 80’s metal as possible. As long as they are still out there, we’ll find em’! We’ll be more and more active in the festival markets and we’re planning on doing a Retrospect Rockfest on the West Coast in 2011. Hope that works out. We just have to spread the word and keep growing for as long as we can!
Thanks for giving us the low-down on Retrospect. Any last words or anything you would like to add?
I want to thank you very much for this opportunity and thank all the die-hard 80’s fanatics who live and breathe true rock n’ roll. We invite everyone to come visit us and check out our massive catalog. Whether you like Foreigner, Def Leppard, Krokus, Black n’ Blue, House of Lords, Helix, Priest, Megadeth or Dream Theater, there’s something you’ll find that I’m sure you will enjoy. Anyone who mentions this interview when purchasing a product I will give you free shipping on domestic orders. We want you to try us out and rest assured, when you buy a CD you can be confident that the majority of that cash is going to the artists themselves.
I want to thank my great Metal buddy “Stone” over at the Metal Odyssey Blog for turning me onto these guys. He ran into them at their booth while attending this years M3 Festival in Columbia, MD. Check out his detailed post of his experience here. While you are there, have a look around as he published several more cool posts about the M3 Fest. Also props for the inspiration for this post title!
*Another current post brought to you by the fine folks @ the Demolish Metal Network. Stay tuned for more posts, articles, reviews etc. in 201—all filed under the Demolish A.D. category. We are trying to balance the material that we post [i.e. material that was written in the mid-80's] with present-day, 80’s-centric features and interviews.