Normally it’s about releases, bands and live shows on Markus’ Heavy Music Blog. To widen things a bit, I would like to take a glimpse behind the scene, featuring a rather new label that released some quite exciting albums over the last months – El Puerto Records. The German label started in 2014 and has bands like Undertow, Stepfather Fred and Witchbound in their portfolio. MHMB was in contact with Matt Bischof who’s Head of Promotion at El Puerto Records and he gave some interesting insights into this smaller but mighty label.
Markus’ Heavy Music Blog: Hello Matt. Thanks for spending some time with MHMB. As a starting point, let’s have a look back in time. El Puerto Records is around since 2014 and it was new songs, written by Stormwitch founding member Harald Spengler (aka Lee Tarot) (R.I.P.) that acted as a kickstart for the label. Can you give us a bit more insights into these early days of the label?
Matt Bischof: I guess it was a stroke of fate. Harald Spengler, with his endless flow of creative ideas, had plans to release a new record. He and Bernd Stelzer – founder, label manager and driving force of El Puerto – knew each other from working on several projects and it was one night, when the idea was born to do the album off one’s own bat. Songs were written and the links to the scene were set, but it was the sudden passing away of Harald Spengler that pushed things back. After a moment of shock, the founders of El Puerto Records and the by Spengler picked Stormwitch members came to the conclusion that it would be in line with Harald, to release the album as ‘Tarots Legacy’.
MHMB: The more traditional metal of Witchbound was the starting point for El Puerto. Step by step new bands have been added to the portfolio. What are the main criteria for you to start a cooperation with a band?
Matt: The band must be alive, which means that they have to be on stage. Studio projects only isn’t what we’re looking for. Everybody at El Puerto Records has a musical background and based on that we do have a wider portfolio of bands that focus on guitar-based music which is promising to us. It’s not about growth with speed and therefor we don’t sign each and everybody. The most important thing for us is that it rocks.
MHMB: El Puerto started with German bands like Stepfather Fred. Lately the label seems to become more international. I’m thinking about the distribution of the latest Beasto Bianco album, which was carried out by you guys. Is this a sign of an expansion course?
Matt: With an increasing awareness also well-known German and international bands knock at our door. Of course we are really proud of this development, since there aren’t that many labels in our size, having known names in their portfolio. We still get questions like “Really? The daughter of Alice Cooper is at El Puerto” or “David Reece? He was with Accept, or?”. This is a real springboard for us.
MHMB: The digital era, we’re all in, doesn’t make things easier for a label. Download numbers are increasing, margins are going down and even the new booming vinyl trend has limitation due to the amount of pressing factories. How do you guys, as a rather small label, deal with all this?
Matt: Based on a firm belief and a nostalgic aspect, we focus on physical products. We will continue releasing on CD and, depending on which release it is, also on vinyl. Of course we do have the digital trend in mind too and it would be negligent to deny it. Therefor also upcoming releases will be promoted and offered in a digital format, which also demands an adjustment in our ways of working, regardless of nostalgic feelings.
MHMB: Brainstorm guitarist Thorsten Ihlenfeld is one of the founders of El Puerto records. I can imagine that this link creates opportunities and synergies. I can remember the release show of Brainstorm’s ‘Scary Creatures’ album with Stepfather Fred and Undertow being the support acts.
Matt: Actually it was the so far only show where we used this synergy. Stepfather Fred signed the contact that night and Undertow joined El Puerto Records two years later. But sure, we make us of this relation if there is a match.
MHMB: If you would have a wish for free, which band would you love to have at El Puerto Records?
Matt: Wow … that’s not easy. In this business you don’t get that far by dreaming, but hey, three years ago, nobody had Chuck Garric and Frank Pane in mind and look what happened. Over time we meet more and more people and personalities we could imagine to work together with. A spontaneous name that comes to my mind is e.g. Geoff Tate in his post-Queensryche era.
MHMB: Gerstetten, home base of the legendary Stormwitch, is also the home of El Puerto Records. Does the countryside help a rock/metal label or is a physical distance to airports and bigger venues more of a hinder?
Matt: I think it doesn’t really matter these days. Both constellations include some advantages and we make the most of it. A lot can be achieved these days by the help of modern communication tools.
MHMB: Matt, is there something more you want to share with the readers of MHMB?
Matt: More appreciation for musicians is a wish of mine. One can do this by visiting live shows or go for a CD. Without it, music will slowly disappear.
MHMB: Matt, thanks a lot for your time and good luck for El Puerto Records and the releases to come.
Photo: El Puerto Records