The year is 2020 and there is a global pandemic happening. Most of us are hiding indoors, drinking ourselves to oblivion, finding new hobbies, or obsessively checking the COVID-19 infection numbers on Twitter.
Being a music fan during this period of time three years ago was interesting. Bands weren’t allowed to play shows or go on tour. Legendary venues struggled to keep their doors open and most popular metal and hardcore bands started playing live-streams to keep people safe at home.
There was also a boom of self-released home recordings and new bands releasing music. This was all happening from bedrooms and garages with current technology much of it sounded professionally recorded.
Another interesting phenomenon happening during the pandemic: Cassette culture and collecting within the worlds of death metal, hardcore, and power violence. It seemed like pre-ordering and collecting cassette tapes was the new thing to be doing. After all, tapes sound great on an analog stereo system. They were cheap to make, cheap to buy, and it was a great way for new bands to showcase their music.
Labels like Maggot Stomp, Caligari Records, Frozen Screams Imprint, Transylvania Recordings, and Desert Wastelands all seemed to be putting out brutal death metal cassettes with a bloodthirsty following. Pre-orders would sell out due to the limited runs and online music sites like Bandcamp seemed to be the favorite place to troll around and find new music.
Along comes Michael Marshall and Barbaric Brutality, and with the labels listed above, they were also in the running of online stores you would visit in hopes to score a limited run cassette. Barbaric Brutality’s name is as blunt as you could get.
The music was either slam metal or punishing death metal. Affectionately called “dummy metal” since most of the bands sound like a caveman swinging a log club to your skull.
Barbaric Brutality started sometime during the pandemic in 2020 and did nothing but build momementum during those first couple of years of uncertanity. Now in 2023, they celebrated three years as a record label in June.
The Sacramento, California-based label has released such titles such as Snuffed on Sight, Disfiguring the Goddess, Bodybox (co release with Maggot Stomp), Tactosa, Gates to Hell, Parasitic Ejaculation, just to name the a few.
No Echo sat down with the mastermind behind Barbaric Brutality, Michael Marshall, to talk about those uncertain times of 2020 and how his label grew to what it is today.
I would like to thank you for taking the time to talk with No Echo, Michael. Tell me about Barbaric Brutality, and the challenges you met starting out as a record label in 2020.
Thanks for taking interest in the label homie! Barbaric Brutality is a record label myself along with my best friend, Kenny, started in June of 2020. We initially started the label with little to no aspirations or plans to scale the business. I was working from home (I typically travel for work every week) and was getting bored out of my mind; at the time I had a music appreciation page where I'd share pics of my personal collection and just sick new music I would discover almost weekly.
I saw so many cool DIY cassette labels thriving in the underground death metal scene which inspired me to throw my hat in the ring. Despite being not the brightest kid on the block and having virtually no business to plan, I'd like to think we have built a pretty loyal following and are now on our 46th release.
In the past three years of doing the damn thang our style, both sonically and aesthetically, has evolved but I feel this current incarnation of the label is most indicative of our low IQs [laughs].
To address the second part of the question, I honestly think 2020 was probably the easiest year of operating the label. Most people had an excess of bread either from COVID stimulus checks or just not spending money on eating out, going to bars, etc. Seemed like every release we’d put up for preorder would sell out in a matter of weeks if not days. As the world opened back up and we had to compete with other frivolous luxuries, that's when the grinding really began.
Supporting bands with physical media for tours and runs alongside our normal release schedules proved to be an arduous task that kind of caught us off guard once shows started happening again. Luckily all the bands we've worked with are great people and understand with this being a DIY labor of love, there will be some hurdles to overcome.
I think we've managed to juggle everything pretty well but I often feel like we have a tiger by the tail!
Would you mind sharing what it was like to have your first pre-order sold out?
If I recall correctly our first preorder, Germanic Iron's Gapt, sold out in a matter of a few days. Fortunately, through my personal IG account I had a decent following and enough familiarity to give confidence that I wasn't a scammer boi (unfortunately over the past few years I have encountered several scam labels/ merch companies).
Our second release, Nothingness' The Hollow Gaze of Death was a total success as well so we kind of had some good wind in our sails right off the bat.
Could you put it in perspective the work it takes being one man shipping out 100 plus cassettes? There were a lot of shipping issues as we can all remember during those years of the pandemic.
The shipping-logistical aspect is definitely the less glamorous part of operating a label. The packing itself isn't difficult but rather tedious; the difficult part is just finding time between my career, wife, newborn, and just whatever life throws at me.
Fortunately, we really didn't run into too many delays or lost shipments. We don't ship internationally for that very reason. The USPS is far from a perfect organization but they are pretty damn consistent rain, sleet, or snow.
In regards to international shipping, or lack thereof.. if anyone is Amy's our releases available in your country shoot us a DM or email with some cool distros you think we can work with!
Was it tough promoting bands that really weren’t allowed to tour on a release?
Not really, in my opinion. In the past bands needed to hit the road relentlessly to kind of “pay their dues' ' and build demand, but with Instagram I think that's totally changed how bands are growing demand and extending their reach. Many bands coming out of the pandemic hasn't played a show at all but had enough demand to book a 2-4 week run no problem.
Look at bands like Sunami or 200 Stab Wounds; I think both these bands had one show pre pandemic and we all know how their shows/ tours were popping right after things opened up again. It's a different game these days and Instagram is a bands most valuable tool, in my opinion. We pretty much solely depend on instagram to promote our releases.
How did your first collaboration with Maggot Stomp come to happen? From what I remember, they always seemed to have very popular death metal cassette releases.
We collaborated with Maggot Stomp on the Bodybox's Through the Bongfire cassette. Seven from Snuffed on Sight linked me up and put me onto the Bodybox release so shouts out to him for always keeping an ear to the streets so to speak, haha.
I reached out to Bodybox and was talking to Harry about releasing a cassette, he was in conversation with another label and it was looking like they were leaning toward that other label (that label is still unbeknownst to me).
Scott from Maggot Stomp reached out and offered to make it a co-release which allowed us to get commitment from Bodybox. That was pretty cool of Scott as they probably would have gone a different direction without Maggot Stomp being involved.
Could you tell us about the latest Snuffed on Sight collaboration with Maggot Stomp and Creator-Destructor Records that just came out?
This release is something special to me for sure. We linked up with Snuffed on Sight when it was just Seven (one-man band) and they only had one track on Bandcamp, "Know-It-All." It's one of the bands I'm most proud of because of my heavy involvement with the band. As mentioned, the band started out with just Seven so early on whenever homie had an idea for the band he would bounce them off me.
I travel for work and have a lot of windshield time; I have some great memories of taking. On the phone with Seven for hours just brainstorming and coming up with dumb ideas for Snuffed. This release is going to put them on an upward trajectory no doubt and I think will earn them some well deserved recognition.
Having Creator Destructor Records and Maggot Stomp involved will definitely get a lot of eyes on Snuffed, this will be great for the band. Smoke just came out digitally. We have tapes available and Creator-Destructor and Maggot Stomp have vinyl and CDs available now for pre-order.
Your label is based out of Sacramento, California with a whole slew of bands from all over the country. Bands residing in areas ranging from California to New Jersey, so would you say that having a strong online and social media presence has helped your relationships with upcoming bands?
Absolutely. Sacramento has a pretty thriving underground music scene currently but genres like slam and brutal death (which was the direction originally wanted for the label) were so obscure to the point we relied heavily upon social media to make these contacts.
Now things are a bit different and as we work with more Bay Area bands we meet homie bands, side projects, etc. Starting out I kind of gave everyone the benefit of the doubt but some kids are weirdos or just don't know how to act so now if possible I like to have a trustworthy homie that can vouch for a band before.
These days we are trying to keep our circle relatively small and really having quality over quantity is our guiding principle.
In addition to Maggot Stomp and Creator-Destructor, you also did a release with Frozen Screams Imprint with Weeping, a New Jersey death metal hybrid. Could you tell me how you handle co-releases, something you are no longer a stranger to?
We have done a handful of collaborations now and working with Frozen Screams was a cool opportunity as that's a label I personally really respect. Jon really puts his heart into that label and it shows; extremely detailed packaging and sick layouts.
Honestly, collaborations haven't really been something we've actively seeked out but rather are often a matter of circumstance. It can oftentimes be like herding cats with communication and getting everyone on the same page, but ultimately it proves to be a great thing for the bands offering multiple platforms and exposure to different groups of followers.
You're moving from Sacramento to Indiana. Fans in the Midwest are no novice to extreme music, Chicago/Detroit aren’t far—both with very strong underground scenes. In fact, Jamey Jasta's revival of the Milwaukee DeathFest seemed to be very successful. You have worked with Detroit artists in the past. What are some of your plans for the future of Barbaric Brutality in your new homebase?
Honestly, we plan to just continue on the course and keep putting sick releases. As mentioned previously, we plan to trim down the amount of bands we work with so we can really hone in and cultivate sick followings for our roster.
We have some pretty cool label merch in the works and we want to continue to work with our homies at Night Shift Merch to secure our bands merch stores and eventually we'd like to take a swing at the vinyl game.
Right now, I'm mostly getting settled in at the new house and trying to support my wife with taking care of our lil infant son, but we have a pretty sick rest of the year planned out!
What is on the agenda this summer for Barbaric Brutality? What is next to hit stores after Snuffed on Sight?
We have CDs coming out for both Duress and Crucial Rip, these should be up on the site late July/ early August. I know Kill Without Consequence just wrapped up a new release which we will be cooking up soon and also I'm pretty stoked to welcome Manos De Fierro to the Barbaric Brutality team. They are releasing a new 2-song promo and I think these kids are gonna turn a lot of heads.
They play a really cool brand of slam and beatdown with that unmistakable Bay Area swag. They've been playing a bunch of shows in the Bay and kids have been going off for the Manos boys. Very excited to see how that's received and to see their music get to more people.
Not planned for summer, but we have the Gamma Sector album in the works and also Gaijin just hit the studio and have another EP in the chamber.
Gamma Sector plays a pretty sick mix of slam and old-school death metal that I think is a pretty unique sound, that release will do very well. And Gaijin is personally one of my favorite BB bands. They're kind of like if Snuffed on Sight and Sunami had a love child, and that kid watched 8 Mile exclusively growing up [laughs]. Super fun, heavy, and dumb.
Needless to say we have a lot planned for this year and even some unannounced things I did not mention. Action packed for all the slow bois out there.
What is the best slice of pizza in Sacramento?
Hands down, Pizza Supreme Being. Absolutely no competition. My homie Ben owns the restaurant and we go back to my punk rock youth. He used to be the frontman of a very sick hardcore band called Sewer Rat. It's been awesome to see his business grow and become a household name in Sacramento.
Homie uses top notch ingredients and the dough is Sourdough which is an absolute game changer. If you're in Sacramento don't pass it up!
Hit the Barbaric Brutality Linktree to find all of the label's social media pages.