Italian Record Label – Argonauta Records – have been one of the rising record labels of the underground Doom, Psych, Sludge and Stoner Metal scenes. They've released a wide variety of great releases since their formation in 2012.
Now celebrating their 5th Anniversary I was given the opportunity to interview the label owner – Gero Argonauta. 2017 perhaps has been Argonauta Records most successful year with them releasing albums by bands such as Forming The Void, NIBURU, Ancient VVisdom, KAL-EL, Dustrider and Lowburn amongst others.
No doubt 2018 will be another active year for both Gero and the label. Before that happens here's a cool interview with the great man himself...
Hi Gero. Thanks for doing this interview. How are things with you today. Congrats on your 5th anniversary with Argonauta Records.
Hello Steve, thanks a lot for this interview. Things are going strong these days. I’m celebrating label 5th anniversary with tons of great releases.
Can you give a brief history on how Argonauta Records started and what inspired you to start a record label.
It is something I had in mind since ages. I’m a music lover since the day I’ve my first memories. Several years ago I decided to give to my dreams a proper form, It needed a lot of work and I could not even do it without the help of family and close friends. To not procrastinate anymore is my motto and I follow it rigorously each day. And now, here we go, tons of great releases and a great network of people I’m in connection with on a daily basis.
Did you ever think that you would be celebrating your 5th anniversary and releasing over 80 quality album releases on the label.
For the anniversary it was my hope, to build something growing up year by year. I’d never expected though to release over 80 albums, it is currently a surprise when I see the label catalogue. 80 releases mean a lot of work and also a lot of cool artists I have the chance to work with. I feel lucky. I think in a sense Argonauta Records is something unique in the music industry currently.
Why did you decide to focus on the Doom/Sludge/Stoner/Psych/Desert Rock genres for your label. I'm not complaining as your label keeps me in business. HA HA.
Ha Ha, yeah, I hear you! It is because I want to focus all my energy and time on the kinds of music I grew up with. The music I know better and I can cover, in a certain sense, easily as it was a hobby.
What were the first steps of Argonauta Records. How has it grown over the last 5 years or so.
It was really a long long journey, to build up what we are today. It requested and still requests a daily dedication and almost 24/7 work, especially the first two years I remind as I never slept answering to messages all night long and so, searching for good partners, bands and more. Today we are a label with its own identity, I believe, with a structure that comprise a promotional office and a key-distro network on a worldwide basis.
Have you made any wrong decisions since starting the label.
Too many debut albums during the first years. I love debuts, I think they have a symbolic meaning, a lot of cool bands are not able to record it, and a lot are not able to give it a follow up. But, by a professional standpoint, debuts request the triple dedication to make people and insiders interested to the album. It has been a problem during the early days and still is when you release new ones. So now I try to balance what my heart says and what reality requests.
Do you have a set of rules and ideals when signing a band to your label. Do they have to meet a particular criteria.
The main criteria is that the band has to appeal to me. I need to feel it suitable to the label. It does not matter how good you are, the proposal need to convince me that together we can do a cool work. Also, new bands have to get that they ask to be part of a big family actually. The whole roster is more important than a single band. Whatever great result a band can obtain, it is of benefit for all of us. Last but not least: touring. Having a live activity is currently essential.
Forming The Void
If a band wants to be signed to your label. How should they submit your demo for you to hear their music. As I'm asked all the time in how to contact labels such as Argonauta Records.
First very easy and most important step, get in touch via e-mail, not via social networks. Then, I need to get band members really believe in their proposal: be specific, send relevant info and songs. And your idea of how you see yourself in the close future. Labels are not a pressing plant, we need to build something cool together to make our collaboration a great one.
You have a great relationship with the Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal community. Mainly with all the different blogs, magazines and YouTubers currently out there. Was that an essential relationship to have and has it made your record label a bigger success.
I'm a fan of the scene since before running the label, following blogs, websites, YouTubers and so. It was so natural to me to establish friendly relationship with many of them (as you, hehe). Many told me there was no problem to support my label when submitting quality music. So this is what I'm trying to do day by day. I've great feedback from the community each moment of the day, webzines setting up premieres, interviews, contests. All is very satisfying and pretty nice to have friendly interactions with everyone.
What is your general attitude or feelings towards the entire Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal community. As Argonauta Records has become a firm favourite with not only myself but other blogs out there.
Considering it a great community, I try to valorize it the best I can, by spreading their work with my titles. It is very important to me, considering the large amount of new releases each month, to obtain attention across the board is something I really appreciate. I feel lucky in a sense. Fans are totally into the label too, many releases are actually sold out and I'm working to reprint them with bonus and renewed packaging.
You first started releasing CD's for the albums that you released and you've slowly moved onto releasing Vinyl records. Was that an easy progression to make. Start releasing products on vinyl.
I'm a vinyl fan, though this format does not grant me what is my main goal, means top coverage into the market and within key distribution services. I believe the main result of Argonauta is having its albums available on a large scale. Vinyl is still in the cataloguing of collector items, which is cool, though not what I really need as priority for my bands. Explained this, yes, it is an easy progression of the label to introduce vinyl releases step by step.
You've had a brilliant 2017 so far. Perhaps your most successful year yet. You've signed and released some incredible albums this year. Is that a fair assumption to make.
Indeed a great year, many great bands, something really incredible. Looking to the work done, it seems unbelievable to get how many artists I got the chance to work with. A lot of CD printed and sold, really a thrilling result.
Looking back over the last 18 months, Argonauta Records has taken a life of it's own. With not only it's releases but by the artists you're now signing. Ancient VVisdom being perhaps the biggest band you've signed so far. Did you ever imagine that you would sign bands such as them to your label.
By looking at the label catalogue, it is impressive to see we released albums by international acts as SUMA, THROES OF DAWN, NIBIRU, KOMATSU, FORMING THE VOID, HOLLOW LEG, KAL-EL, CHURCH OF VOID, LOWBURN and a lot more of awesome artists. About ANCIENT VVISDOM, it was something really unexpected till when I got in touch with that great guy of Dan Lorenzo, a guitar-legend of Thrash Metal scene mostly thanks to its Hades (and more projects in the years).
We spoke to release together his new album as VESSEL OF LIGHT, a band he run with Nathan of Ancient VVisdom (check Vessel of Light out, impressive stuff between Corrosion of Conformity and Alice in Chains). Speaking with Nathan, it looks as very natural for both of us to team-up also for Ancient VVisdom and their highly anticipated new album. Both Vessel of Light and Ancient VVisdom are out these days, pretty thrilling!
What does 2018 have in store for Argonauta Records. Can you let us know which bands you've have signed or new albums that maybe getting released.
Really a lot, ha-ha! You know I never stop, so we will have a killer beginning of the year with bands as CLAMFIGHT, BIBLE BLACK TYRANT (Eagle Twin/Lumbar side project), KAYLETH new album, ZOM (Monolith Wielder and Brimstone Coven members), DEE CALHOUN new album. And many many more!
I hope you don't mind but I think some of the success of the label is also down to the awesome folks at NeeCee Agency. Especially Barbara. How did you start working with them. As it feels like a fantastic working relationship.
Barbara, yes, she is the armed wing of the label, ha-ha! Seriously, currently we are close friends and what I like of NeeCee is that they care the label as a whole, giving same opportunities to the roster as a unique beast. Pushing all the time with a massive PR activity and various initiatives. She works with me since the early days and this granted me during the years to spend my time for other aspects of the label.
With the first 5 years of the label out of the way. Where do you see Argonauta Records over the next 5 to 10 years.
I just hope to speak again with you Steve about our 200th release, aha!
People may not know this but you're part of Italian Sludge/Post-Metal collective – Varego. What's the current status with the band. Are you still active. Any plans to release any new material.
Yes, very active indeed. We are just back from our most important year, where we were able to tour and promote our latest album, by playing with cool acts as MONDO GENERATOR, HIGH FIGHTER and label mates as NIBIRU, INFECTION CODE, EYES FRONT NORTH, SUMA and more. We are working on the new album to be released hopefully in 2018, it will be our definitive turning into prog sludge sonorities.
Can you offer any words of wisdom or advice to people who want to start up a record label. What things should they do and what should they not do.
When I've started the label, a lot of insiders told me if I'm crazy, that music industry would have died in a few years. Now I'm here, the label is my regular job and I also have time for family. Of course you have to change your daily priorities. Though I believe it is something possible by founding your own way to work it out, not trying to copy any other else, make plans and observe them. It has to be a job, not a hobby, you have to care it day by day five days a week (or more).
If you can pick a favourite band or album that Argonauta Records that have released over the last 5 years. What is it and the reasons why. (You cannot pick Varego).
Just want to mention an album for its symbolic meaning: “A Perfect Dawn” by U.S. band FROM OCEANS TO AUTUMN. They gave me full trust when I was not a label at all. For a somewhat reason they wanted to work with me and their album was the first one I printed. Without that particular step, probably I’ll be not here speaking of the label now.
Gero, thanks for doing this interview. Thanks for the great albums to review and stuff that I've premiered over the last couple of years. Your support means a lot and I wish you every success with Argonauta Records.
Thank you very much man! I really appreciate what you do and I’m pretty happy to run this interview with you, as you are within the early guys giving to my releases top support. Cheers!
Words by Steve Howe and Gero Argonauta
I'm going to play out this interview with the excellent debut album from Italian Psych/Space/Stoner Rockers - DUSTRIDER. As it's a fantastic Argonauta Records release and their guitar player - Bruno, writes for the blog.