Interviews

Gloom Records Founder Nate Wilson Reflects on the History of His Label

Monster X at Hampshire College, Amherst, MA, 1998. (Photo: Cullen Stalin)

Nate Wilson has dedicated a huge part of his life to music, something most No Echo readers can identify with. But the New York native wasn't just happy sitting on the sidelines. Nope, Nate has put his money where his mouth is throughout the years, not only playing in such bands as Devoid of Faith, Monster X, and Das Oath, but also releasing some of the most revered hardcore records from the late '90s and '00s via his label, Gloom Records.

The label issued vinyl from the likes of Toxic Holocaust, Down In Flames, 9 Shocks Terror, and Total Fury through its original run. Outside of a recent cassette reissue from Devoid of Faith and 7" from his current band, Green Dragon, Gloom Records has been in a sort of hibernation period since the '00s, but many of the label's releases are still influencing musicians across hardcore landscape.

The following was a recent chat I had with Nate about Gloom Records and the stories behind some of its key releases.

It seems like most hardcore labels start out because someone wants to release a record by either a friend’s band or their own band. Since the first Gloom Records release was a Devoid of Faith/Seized split, was that the case with you? Was it more of a “well, I guess I’ll put it out and go from there” kind of thing, or did you plan on doing a label for a long time before that?

It just really started to make sense for us to handle putting out some of our own stuff. Devoid of Faith had more songs and the ability to write songs faster then we had labels interested in putting records out by us. Back then, there were a handful of labels in the US putting out music by the likes of us. No one at that time seemed interested in our Canadian brothers.. Seized, so I thought it would be neat to put out a split with a really slow doomy stoner Sabbath-type band and then a faster hardcore band like us on the other side. I’d done a label with friends a few years earlier called Hella Cool Records, so I had some knowledge of how to get a record out.  

Is there a specific reason why you named it Gloom Records? In other words, is there some interesting origin story there, or did it just sound cool?

Gloom was originally a ‘zine I did in the early '90s, It was just an extension of what else I was doing (covering extreme music). For the 'zine I did like the way Gloom sounded, and it matched up perfectly with the styles of music I was covering (metal and hardcore). So, yeah, I just thought it sounded cool for what I was doing at the time. It was sort of a limiting name, but I was always ok with that.

The 9 Shocks Terror/Devoid of Faith split was the second Gloom release. Tony Erba from 9 Shocks Terror is a fellow hardcore lifer. Were you guys friends before working together on that release? What’s the history there?

Wedge from 9ST had initially gotten in touch with Jim MacNaughton (Devoid of Faith) and myself when his previous band the H100’s were playing a show in Albany with Integrity at the QE2. Wedge quickly became a pen pal and record trading buddy. Any time I saw Wedge he was carrying around one of those vintage 7" boxes and it was always filled with rare gems that he would either sell me or trade. That DOF/9ST split came about when 9ST came to the Capital District with the Gaia (from Japan) and played live on Jim’s radio show on WRPI in Troy, NY. There were like 5 people there to witness the onslaught. 

I was so excited by the 9 Shocks sound that I flat out asked them to do a record with me while eating breakfast the next morning at the Farmer Boy diner. They reminded me of a Japanese Jerry’s Kids and that was really my thing at the time. Those guys stayed at my house in the basement for like 3-4 more days with no shows to play for some odd reason.  I really loved them as people and friends.  We played many gigs together traveling around the states in the early days.

9 Shocks Terror (Photo: Nate Wilson)

Did you have anyone helping you with Gloom during the earlier phase of the label? If not, maybe you had someone you would turn to for advice?

Early on I’d ask Jim MacNaughton what he though of certain things I was planning. Later on, Marcel from Coalition and Mark McCoy (Charles Bronson, The Oath, Youth Attack) became people in my circle that I trusted for advice and ideas. McCoy actually came up with the Gloom/Judge hammers logo that became my staple. I didn’t ask him, he just did it at a kinkos one late night. I fell in love with it instantly. As friends we all did everything we could for one another.

Gloom Records bib (not for sale)

The Albany Style Hardcore 1999 comp featured By the Throat, Devoid of Faith, Monster X, and a band called Police Line.

Police Line were a punk band from Albany that consisted of kids who would shop at my comic book shop, Crypto Comix. A solid bunch of dudes who went on to play in Self Defense Family, Permanent Trip, and End of a Year. One of the Monster X songs was supposed to be featured on a Dysgusher Records' Negative Approach compilation 10".

Were you getting a ton of submissions from around the world? What was the criteria for you to get behind releasing a record you weren’t directly involved with?

Yes, I would get demos every day in the mail back then. It was a different world, people were sending tapes and then later on CDRs to me from everywhere all the time. I miss those days of going to the PO Box opening it and getting loads of mail that consisted of tapes, and records from people all over the world. I think the only criteria I really had was that the bands had a DIY ethic that was similar to mine and that they weren’t total dickheads.  

Devoid of Faith (Photo: Isaac Butcher)

One of the bands you released through Gloom that hailed from the other side of the country was San Diego’s Run For Your Fucking Life. 

I met those guys while Mark and I were doing some weird make up promotion for Patrick West of Change Zine. The two of us were traveling the country trying to giveaway some promotional Make up samples for women and we ended up at the Locust house for a few days. Justin Pearson (The Locust, Swing Kids) played me a rough mix of the RFYFL record and went on to tell me that nobody in San Diego was willing to put it out. Instantly I fell in love with it. It reminded me of Poison Idea meets Econochrist. Justin introduced me to the drummer and other members and I asked them to let me put it out. I was very proud of that record.  

What other labels from that era were you a fan of? Is there another label that you feel was on the same wavelength as Gloom during its run? I think of Max Ward’s 625 Thrashcore and Gloom Records being in the same wheelhouse, but I’m curious to your thoughts.

I have a ton of respect for Max and all he’s done for bands. Labels I recall admiring back then were Coalition, DeadAlive, Youth Attack, Great American Steak Religion, Sound Pollution, Six Weeks, Crust, and Dan Doh.

From my memory, Start the Fucking Fire from Down In Flames got around quite a bit upon its release in 2001. How did that band get on your radar?

My friend Greg Gartland (whose musical taste I trusted) had seen them live and heard their new songs. He told me about them and thought I’d dig them and thought we’d all be a good fit together. When I touched base with John Devlin (the guitarist) he sent me the new songs, and once again the band had nobody at the time willing to put out the EP. I told them I’d put it out in a heart beat. I mean come on… 14, 15, and 16-year-old kids playing balls out thrash like it was the '80s? I was in! They were great to work with. When they broke up, they invited the band I was playing in at the time to play their final show in South NJ.

Who was handling Gloom releases throughout the world? Did you have specific distro deals worked out? How about in the States?

I started off just trading, really. I had the comic shop where I was able to sell records. This gave me the ability where I could trade say 25 copies of one of my releases to another distro or label for 25 mixed records from them. It was a solid and ideal way for me to get Gloom stuff every where and a great way to get obscure records to kids in Albany. It was a ton of work, though. Also, I was carting around my huge distro to every show I was playing or going to see. Watching the way Neil Robinson (Tribal War Records) operated was a huge inspiration for me. He taught me a lot. Toward the later years, I mainly used Ebullition for distribution. Kent [McClard] was great to Gloom, I owe him big time. He has done a lot through the years for many people/labels/bands.

KungFu Rick at Knights of Columbus, Arlington Heights, IL, 2007. (Photo: Brian Santostefano)

Cut the Shit is a band you worked with on a few different releases.

Paul had quit Tear It Up and then contacted me sending me the Cut the Shit demo tape. I think from what I can recall, he wanted to use different avenues from Tear It Up who were doing records with Havoc, Dead Alive, and Deranged at the time. I don't think he wanted to be seen as riding the coat tails of Tear It Up, he wanted Cut the Shit to Stand on its own. I love that he trusted me with practically all the Cut the Shit releases. That dude is a genius and made all the band's releases look and sound perfect. Paul really had a vision for that band and I think I was able to help them see the vision through. 

What were you doing for a living at that point in the label? In other words, how were you funding everything? 

I was doing a mish mosh of shit to make a living back then. I had the comic shop (which really wasn’t giving me any sort of income). I honestly can't recall ever taking home a actual paycheck in the three years of owning the shop. I had a partner, so we’d divy up the hours, making it basically a part-time job with no pay. On my days off from the shop, I’d work as a house painter for Mark Telfian's (Devoid of Faith, Hail Mary) father making actual money that helped fund Gloom Records and pay my rent. That was seasonal, so, eventually, I started doing work for Patrick West who ran these strange events that Mark McCoy, Artie Philie (Milhouse, The Shemps, Indecision), and I would do together. We’d do spring break promotions etc. It was crazy, but really helped me fund Gloom as well.  

Toxic Holocaust at Gloom Fest 2, Albany, NY, 2005. (Photo: Nate WIlson)

Did Gloom Records ever turn a profit?

There really was zero profit in doing the label. It was a fun hobby that helped my friends bands, but putting out say a Toxic Holocaust 7” (1000 pressed) there was no money being made. I mean, I was selling a 7” for $3 back then, I don’t even know what my costs were, but I was probably just breaking even.  

The Mark McCoy (Charles Bronson, The Oath) and Mark Telfian (Devoid of Faith, Hail Mary) split was and still is a pretty unique release. How did that record come together and were you worried that it would go over most people’s heads?

I didn’t care at all back then. I was doing what I thought was funny even if it was full of inside jokes. We wanted to challenge the hardcore scene and putting out that record was a way of us all doing that (in our own weird way). All three of us were working for Telfian's dad at the time, so we would bullshit all day long about stupid stuff we wanted to do while painting houses in the Capital region We just supported one another no matter what.  

Someone you worked with early on in their career who has gone on to actually have a career as a working musician is Joel Grind from Toxic Holocaust. Was that a case of someone telling you about him or did he reach out to you initially?

I met Joel via Yosuke [Konishi] of Nuclear War Now! Productions. Back in those days, Joel didn’t have a ton of outlets like he does now to get his stuff out there. He was truly a DIY dude (he still is from what I can tell). Joel was into the hardcore scene, so he was familiar with what I was doing via Gloom and him doing a 7” and 5” on my label definitely fit what he was trying to do at the time. I think it helped to get him exposed to both scenes (hardcore/metal). I recall talking to him on the phone after he had recorded the vocals for the Reaper's Grave 5” in the parking lot of a Applebee's in the back seat of his car. Totally a hilarious dude. I'm proud of what he's accomplished, and I hope he is around doing metal forever. 

Who were some of the bands you passed on (for whatever reason) that went on to release great records? Any bands you wish you had done in retrospect?

Fucked Up, From Ashes Rise, the Inmates, and Municipal Waste are some that come to mind right now... I'd talked to all of them about releases, but things just didn't work out for some reason or another. I’m sure there are tons more that I can't recall.

On the other side of that, were there any bands that said no to you?

I’m sure there are a bunch. I just can’t think of any by name. Mainly a bunch of metal bands contacting me after I started doing Toxic Holocaust stuff is what I seem to remember.

The Satanic Threat In to Hell 7” was a joint release with Hells Headbangers. First off, did you know those guys from NunSlaughter? How did you come to work with them? 

I was friendly with Jim Konya and Shaun Filley due to Cleveland connections with 9 Shocks Terror and all the other bands/people I’d met through that regional scene (Thuggy, Aaron, Chris Pellow, Paul Cider, etc). Any time I'd run into Konya, he'd hand me a handful of records that he'd played on. From what I recall Jim and Shaun had an arrangement with Hells Headbangers for the EP to come out but they wanted a hardcore label to be involved as well. It started from there. RIP Konya.... a super talented guy.

A lot of people who know Gloom and your various bands might not know how deep your roots in metal go. Since you didn’t release much metal stuff on the label, was that more of a thing about your head not being in that stuff during those years, or did you feel that there wasn’t much worth putting out in that space?

Those days were dark when it comes to metal. If I’d heard stuff like what Joel was doing with Toxic Holocaust back in the '90s, I’d for sure would have wanted to put it out. But there is more to it then just that… Joel was a hardcore kid who found metal. He had those DIY roots that meshed with what I was doing. Even if there were other metal bands that I liked or was into back then, it's doubtful that they’d have had the DIY ethics that I was immersed in at the time. That was something that was very important to me back in those days.

I was a truly elitist asshole at one point in my life. Those ethics are something that I don't really think about anymore. I believe people should just do what they want. Live and let live.

In recent years, you’ve released material from your current band, Green Dragon, via Gloom, but what would you say were the final couple of releases during the label’s original run? Why did you decide to wind things down? Was it a matter of inspiration or financial headaches?

I’d say it had a lot to do with there just being no shortage of labels to put out records by fast bands like what I was originally doing. I started to feel as though there were finally enough avenues for bands to get their stuff out there compared to the early days of me doing the label. Inspiration might also have played a part as well. Starting a family might have come into play as well. I'd say watching all the in-fighting happening in the scene might also have played a small part. There was no one thing that made me wind things down.  

Do you ever see bringing Gloom Records back on a more consistent basis?

Doubtful, but who knows what the future holds. Green Dragon wants to get our self-titled LP out on vinyl, but I'm pretty far removed from distribution, so I'd like to see an actual label that is currently working get it out.  I'll never say Gloom is completely dead. It has served its purpose with helping bands who needed an outlet for what they were doing at the time. Things have changed so much since the days when I was doing the label. Record Store Day seems to really have impacted the amount of time it takes to get a release out, etc. Everything seems far more complicated now then when I was putting out records.

Total Fury (Photo: Nate Wilson)

What are some current labels that you feel are killing it at the moment?

I'm really out of touch with whats happening with the hardcore/punk scene these days, but I am always impressed with how Mark has handled Youth Attack. Still always checking out stuff from 20 Buck Spin, Hells Headbangers, and Nuclear War Now. I love the way stuff on STB Records looks and sounds. I guess I'm just really paying more attention to metal bands and labels these days.  

Das Oath: Nate Wilson, Jeroen Vrijhoef, and Mark McCoy, 1999. (Photo: Matt Plezier)

OK, rapid fire question time! 

All-time best-selling Gloom Records release?

This will surprise people... but the Monster X To the Positive Youth 7". This was the MX covers song EP that Devon Cahill (Dropdead/Monster X) and I did as a split release. This sold between 8000-9000 copies by the time I stopped pressing it. Devon was done after the first pressing.

Most underrated Gloom Records release?

In my opinion, it's the Run For Your Fucking Life LP, then maybe the Dead Ones EP, or Don Austin EP. All were records I just loved and never understood how they didn't get more  attention from people. All three sold 1000-1500 copies each, but again, that was a different time and would be unheard of today. If I put those un-hyped bands records out in this day and age I'd be lucky to sell a few hundred copies.  

Outside of yourself, musician who featured most prominently in the Gloom Records discography?

Its gotta be Jim MacNaughton, Joel Grind, or Paul from Cut the Shit.  

Jim MacNaughton (Devoid of Faith, Affirmative Action), Nate Wilson, and Devon Cahill (Monster X, Dropdead) in 2015.

What are some Gloom Records releases that were planned but didn’t happen for some reason or another?

Sick and Tired LP (Western Mass), Charles Bronson discography, Wake Up Dead/Jury split (two Albany bands), and another Albany compilation (an LP that would have featured End of a Year, Death Squad, Down Foundation, Wake Up Dead, etc.).  

Who was the most loyal Gloom Records mailorder customer?

Thats easy... Rudolf Everts. He's a Dutch hardcore fanatic that never missed ordering a release from me back in the day.  A great human being as well. I was finally able to meet him, and become lifelong friend with him due to my days playing with Das Oath and hanging out a lot in Holland. All hail Rudy!

JR Ewing, Das Oath, and The Locust on tour in Europe, 2001.

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Follow Nate on Instagram and make sure you also dig into some Green Dragon. Check out my in-depth interview with Nate about his life and musical projects from 2016, and if you're a vinyl head, I also profiled the dude right here.

Tagged: gloom records

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