Ayong (third from left)... with Stompin'

Md Falmi, well-known as Ayong, the drummer of $ingapore's premiere hardcore band, Stompin' Ground, is less known for his other equally important role, that as owner of Dies Irae Productions, an indie record label specialising in metal. Considered to be a perfectionist and known for his eccentric taste in music, this father of a two-year-old baby boy, declares that the label is "a passion and not about the money. We haven't taken off yet and we don't expect a hit album or mega bucks, but at least when I look myself in the mirror, I know it's 100 per cent filled with integrity." Adam Md Yusop meets up with his Boon-Lay-Secondary-School-chum to talk about the passion.

Why did you start a label?

I like to think of it as my way of giving back to the metal scene. I'm doing the label full time now. The rest of my partners have day jobs. Past experience has taught me to understand more about the band's needs. My contract for bands is a mutual agreement, sort of a win-win situation, where we can agree on issues pertaining to the album.

To all those who aspire to set up a record label, it's not about the glamour, that's bulls***! You have to slog through uncertain hours and stay up at night to chat with our European/American counterparts. During the day, there are mail and administrative work to do. Sometimes, I only manage one meal a day. It's easy to give up, but then, it's not. It's a calling. Doing a label gives me total satisfaction. I'm my own boss.

Please give us a brief history of Dies Irae Productions and brief biographies of the persons involved.

Dies Irae Productions first began as a distribution service in 1997. We became a record label in 1998 after receiving quite a few demos which sounded great but had no interest to the labels overseas. I wanted to give these bands a chance as I thought they were good enough. At the time, almost everyone were investing in Black Metal or melodic Death Metal bands. I have nothing against these genres, but I felt almost every other band sounded very much the same. So we pulled our acts together and just went on from there.

Before Dies Irae, I was previously with Pulverised Records. I learnt a lot from them before leaving to start Dies Irae Productions. I still play in numerous bands — black and death metal, metalcore, stoner, rock and progressive. I will also be contributing to a local fanzine called Dark Legions and a webzine from Brazil called IE2K. I would like to do more for the underground so we'll see what comes next. Of course, my priority is also spending some time with my family; my wife and two-year-old kid.

Mohd Razali bin Hussain was previously in some bands such as Profancer where he played bass (Ed: Profancer was the cover story in BigO #58, 1990). He has a flair for organising gigs and also contributes quite a lot financially which is really helpful for the label. Mohd Nasir bin Wari used to write in a great fanzine called Fatal Overload. He was very much hated by most people in the scene back in the early days due to his honesty in his reviews and everything else in general. I thought he was cool because you don't meet many honest people these days... what more back then? Also, we have very similar tastes in music. We worship Ripping Corpse (now Dim Mak), Autopsy ("Mental Funeral rules supreme!!!"), Confessor (now known as Fly Machine), Atheist ("anything!"), Sindrome, Necrovore and tons more!

Meanwhile, Johanis and Azly are still playing in numerous bands. They are now in Doxomedon and some others. They are good friends and help me with promo mailings, answering letters and requests for our mail-order catalogues, and whatever else I may not have the time to do. They more or less manage the website, do the layouts of our releases and also ads. They are also good with the computer. All of the abovementioned people are very important to the company.

Why did you choose this particular name for your label?

Dies Irae means the "Day of Wrath." It came from a song by Bathory (one of the founding fathers of Black Metal) from their most acclaimed album, Blood Fire Death. It was one of the best albums to have ever been released so I guess it was only natural to name ourselves after one of the tracks. Also, it describes the day of wrath, a time when no life will be spared which, at the same time, sounds kind of cool for a metal label. Heheh!!

Do you think that the MP3 revolution will pose a threat to your livelihood?

MP3 is good when you need to hear a particular band's song sample but other than that, I don't see how else it can be useful. No, I don't think it will be a threat to me 'cos we are too small for anyone to even bother about! Maybe if I became a bigger label one day, I'll start worrying. Soon, I hope!

What other activities does label work require?

At present, we run a distribution service too. We not only do retail sales but wholesale as well. We supply to just about any store which can afford to pay us cash for the stuff they need from us. There are of course some stores that we deal with on consignment basis. We also supply to stores in Australia, Taiwan, Malaysia and some other distributors from Asia and the rest of the world.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of your label being based over here?

The advantage of being based in $ingapore is that we don't have much rivalry, as there aren't too many labels from here. The disadvantage however is the fact that we're too far off from anywhere else! It is also very hard for us to get noticed just because we're down here. The other thing is, we do not have the luxury of seeing bands from overseas coming here to play... at least not much! Also, the censorship law here is very strict! I have lost quite a lot of money from importing and trading CDs as 25 per cent of our shipments usually end up being detained!

What is your view on past and present $ingapore metal labels and the metal scene here?

Past?!! There were never any labels in the past. At present, there are Pulverised, Sonic Wave, Dark Artz and probably some more. I quite like Pulverised in terms of their professionalism. They have some very good releases too and their releases are awesome in terms of packaging and layout. If only they are a bit more daring in signing bands... or maybe they really can't appreciate anything else but Swedish melodic Black/Death Metal bands. Who knows?

As for the metal scene here, it has always been healthy though not united. Every group strives toward elitism. Everyone wants to be known as "true" here, which I really don't bother much about. I feel it is very childish to say such things... something even my son might think is childish! Well, let's just put it this way... If these guys are "true," then all of us at Dies Irae are REAL!!! Heheh!!

You have only death metal bands on your roster, any other sub-genres?

Well, I love Metal in general. It's just that the bands, be it local or overseas, have to grab my attention. They must be hungry and I've no time for teen bands who are still new and have yet to learn their musical instruments.

What are your future release plans?

We have more or less confirmed the dates for the new Dim Mak album which is entitled Intercepting Fist. The band will begin recording from Jan 6 to 20, 2001. They will be flying over to Florida for their next effort and it'll be engineered, produced and mastered by Erik Rutan (of Morbid Angel, a seminal death metal band) in Dimensional Sound Studios, his very own studio. Expect a more killer sound than the band's previous effort. On top of that, we at Dies Irae have already got the chance to listen to Dim Mak's advance tracks and we all think that the new album will rule supreme!!! The release date is yet to be confirmed. However, if everything goes as planned, it should be safe to say that a March/April release is possible.

And yes, Dies Irae Productions will stick to our usual practice of making the first pressing of 1,000 or 2,000 copies a limited edition. In what form, you may ask? Well, we'll think of something. Whatever it is, we'll make sure it'll be worth your every penny! I can only hope that this release will make some profit. I'm crossing my fingers. The recording expense is a lot. We’re flying the guys from New Jersey to Eric Rutan's multi-track studio in Florida. The total cost is about S$17,600. That's excluding promotions. We'll try to arrange a few of the bands to play here and other parts of Asia. Getting a venue is a hassle but we'll see.

Also, we'd like to take this opportunity to announce our most recent signing, Fly Machine (formerly known as the mighty Confessor with previous releases on Earache Records). As we all know, Confessor made it on the "Top 100 Albums of the ‘90s poll" in both Metal Maniacs (US magazine) and Terrorizer Magazine (UK). It is really hard to describe them but if you've heard Confessor before, or vintage Sabbath and Trouble, then I'd say you'll have an idea of what Fly Machine are all about... only better, perhaps? Tentatively, the recording will commence sometime in June 2001.

We have yet to finalise the recordings of our other equally great bands — namely, Death Of Millions, Stargazer and Invocation.

We are also participating on the next SOD sampler CD. It will be a collaboration between two fine labels; one being Dies Irae Productions and the other, Sonic Wave International. Be on the lookout for SOD Magazine's 17th issue as this is where our CDs (7,000 copies) will get to the masses for free!

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Note: The above interview was published in BigO #181 (January 2001).
Click here to order a copy of the issue (S$4.80). Overseas readers can email singbigo@singnet.com.sg for rates.

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