Although Dissonance Productions actually came into being about two years ago, re-issuing seminal albums by the likes of Corrosion Of Conformity and Deathwish, Head Honcho Steve Beatty really views 2018 as the label’s first real year of operation, this being the year in which their new signings all began to blossom.
The brainchild of Steve and label manager Tom Doherty, Dissonance Productions came about when the pair started thinking about creating a new label. “Having taken a bit of time off after working with Candlelight, Tom and I decided we wanted to start something new,” recalls Steve. “We used a lot of back catalogue material to get things moving, but the aim was always to find and sign new and exciting acts. One of the frustrations in the past had been working with bands who couldn’t tour, or who didn’t want to tour; with Dissonance we wanted to sign bands who were hungry to get out there and play.”
Events like the annual Brofest festival in Newcastle were evidence (if evidence were needed) that there was a healthy and vibrant underground British metal scene featuring an array of exciting young new bands. The likes of Amulet, Eliminator, Dark Forest, Seven Sisters, Toledo Steel and Wytch Hazel had all appeared on the Brofest stage, and it was Amulet who became the catalyst for deciding Dissonance’s direction.
“They were the first new act to be signed,” continues Steve, “which is odd in itself as they will be the last one to release an album for us. But after we’d signed Amulet we were talking to Marek Steven, their guitarist, and realised he was very well connected with the British metal scene. He pointed out that there was a lot going on but that no-one was really covering it – the bands were all on small labels around Europe, and there was certainly no British label with the backing of something as big as Plastic Head interested in what was going on. So we asked if Marek could start recommending bands to us because that sounded exactly like what I wanted to get involved with. Co-incidentally, around that time I’d also kind of fallen back in love with traditional metal. I think that’s one of those things that, as you’re growing up, you veer away from as your tastes diversify and you start experimenting with a load of different things. And so just as I started listening to older stuff like NWOBHM and traditional metal bands this idea appeared right in front of us, and it really was very exciting! All this was going on, and no-one seemed to be taking notice of it, pretty much, so we decided that we would. I’m quite patriotic as well and I really want to put British metal back on the map. In my mind I saw us as a British label dealing with British bands predominantly and getting on with breaking new British talent. And, believe me, there’s such a lot of it out there.”
Having established the label and built up a name – and generated some cashflow – through a number of back catalogue releases, one of Dissonance Productions’ early highlights was the ‘British Steel – The Rising Force Of British Heavy Metal’ compilation released in September 2017. ‘British Steel…’ featured eleven young new British bands from (alphabetically) Amulet to Wytch Hazel. “That compilation proved that there’s a fantastic amount of talent out there,” affirms Steve. “It really showcases what Dissonance Productions is all about, and was also a good way to say ‘here’s Britain, and this is what’s going on over here.’ Plus, I really did like the idea of doing an old-school metal compilation like ‘Axe Attack’ and ‘Metal For Muthas’ and all those records from the past. I wanted to say ‘this is our ‘Axe Attack’’ and I think we achieved it. We did it in red, white and blue splatter vinyl which I thought was a nice touch and which again appealed to my patriotic streak, and the artwork was all British…” He pauses, then laughs. “It looked fucking great! A good traditional compilation in the style of the good traditional compilations from back in the day because that’s how most of us discovered bands back then – from compilation albums. I remember hearing Slayer on a compilation, and Obituary on the ‘Raging Death’ record… And there was the Kerrang! album and records like ‘Speed Kills’… That’s effectively how we were introduced to bands back then so we were rather hoping to emulate that with ‘British Steel’. And even the bands on the record that we didn’t sign, it was still really nice working with them; we couldn’t sign everything – that just wouldn’t have been possible. But the whole point was to represent the scene, and I think we did that extremely well.
“There is one band I would have loved to have signed and that’s Dark Forest. I thought they were a great band. I’m unsure what happened to them in the end whether they split or not, but at the time they seemed unsure about which direction they wanted to take. I really thought they were fantastic though.”
If 2018 is in Steve’s view the first real year of operation, 2019 will be a year of consolidation. “We’ll continue doing back catalogue deals because – even though some of them haven’t made a lot of money – we can re-invest in the new bands. In 2018 all the bands we signed put out albums – aside from Amulet – and of course a lot of those bands had been working on material for a couple of years. We’d say ‘do you want to do an album with us’ and they’d say ‘well, actually, we’ve got one ready to record’. So that was easy – ‘well, great, let’s go and record it then’ – and now for a lot of the bands they need their album to settle in while they get out there and promote it, and then probably they’ll all start to regroup and write new records for release in 2020, I would have thought. I mean, Seven Sisters have got a hell of a year in front of them. They’ve really grown, they’ve now got a good new agent and are going to be playing a lot of gigs, and they’ve just done a brilliant new album which needs to bed down and get recognised.
“We’ve also got new albums coming out from Grim Reaper and some of the other stalwart bands too. I think we had a very grand plan for the first couple of years, and as we’ve achieved all that now we need to look at formulating a plan for what we do next. We’ll certainly continue to sign new bands, continue to put out great back catalogue records and will grow the label so that we can keep moving on to bigger and better things. We’ve started to build an infrastructure with a great team of people, we’ve got a good name and track record already, and it’s looking really good.”
Elsewhere in Echoes I’ve asked some of the label’s acts to name their favourite album of the year, their highlight of 2018 and what they’re most looking forward to in 2019. I asked Steve if he wanted to participate. “My favourite album of the year? Eliminator – ‘Last Horizon’. No question.”
Highlight of the year? “Eliminator – ‘Last Horizon’. No question!” he laughs. “I just love that record. Personally, watching my kids grow up would keep me happy, but as far as music is concerned I thought that everybody delivered a good record but I particularly, personally, like Eliminator. I like what they do, I think Danny’s got a great voice, I love the guitars, the drums; I just love that style they play. I’ve played that record to death and I still really, really enjoy it. So that’s my favourite record of the year personally. That’s with no disrespect to the others, but as a fan I do love that record.”
Most looking forwards to in 2019? “I don’t know. I haven’t got there yet!” Another laugh. “Well, as I said, just to grow further, unearth some new acts and hopefully see our existing acts continue to build on where they are now. I think a big mistake that labels make is that they continually look for something new, whereas we’ve got, I feel, a responsibility to the artists that we’ve signed already to continue to help them develop.
And then of course there’s Amulet… “Although we originally signed Amulet first, and then signed all the other bands that Marek put us in touch with, they’ll be the last to deliver an album, largely because of line-up changes. But where I used to think that Amulet were a good band with a lot of potential, I think now that with their current line-up they’re a great band with a lot of potential. So we’ll have a new Amulet record in 2019, and I think, from what I’ve heard, that it will turn a lot of heads; and I’m glad, because Marek was very instrumental in helping us put the label together, and he’s been brilliant to work with since, so on a personal level I really want the record to deliver for him, because without him we wouldn’t have had the guidance to build what we’ve built. So I really do want to do a good job for Amulet. They’ll certainly be one of the highlights of 2019.”
You can take a look at Dissonance’s full catalogue HERE