Ever since death metal was first created in the 1980s it has been a sound that has been met with visceral backlash from a lot of the general public. The horrific imagery, violent lyrics, and cacophonous sound that very few could tolerate was the perfect trifecta for a group of people to find a home in. From the age of 11 when I first listened to “Mental Funeral” by Autopsy, that was it. I was beyond captivated by the sound and knew that I wanted the music to be a part of my life, and after all these years, I am deeper in it than I thought I would ever be.
Because of this it was a great pleasure of mine to be able to sit down with the mastermind of Sevared Records, Barrett Amiss II. As one of the heavy weights of the death metal underground, Sevared Records has always been at the forefront of grotesque audio. Because of this Barrett has been able to create an empire that comes with a legion of dedicated and rabid fans, like myself. Now that we both met up at the first iteration of Philthadelphia Infest in Philadelphia, PA, it is my turn to pick this mans brain.
Metal Blast: You started Sevared Records in 1997 and you had certain ideals that made you start it. What were some of those original thoughts?
Barrett Amiss II: It’s simple, I love death metal and I wanted to be a part of it. At the time death metal wasn’t really there because of the whole collapse of it in 1994 with black metal blowing up, so that killed death metal for a long time. I’ve always loved death metal, and I do like some black metal, but at that time I was starting a magazine dedicated to death metal to try and keep the scene going. My roommate at the time was Ryan Parish from Darkest Hour, formerly of Disinterment, and they are brilliant. They never had the money to record, but I had it at the time and I became their manager, which was a bad idea because I was fucking 18. I knew more about the scene than they did because they all had jobs, and I was just working at a catering company at the time, but I had the money to put them in a studio and get their CD out. I was just doing the magazine to support the scene and everything, and if I’m doing a magazine I might as well start a label at the same time.
MB: That’s a very good combination. Even with those ideals all the way back then, as time has gone on, are there any other thoughts in your mind that drives you to continue with Sevared?
Barrett: It’s all for the love of the music, hands down. That’s the only thing that drives me. It’s just the love of the scene. There are some certain aspects of the scene I don’t like, but death metal as a whole worldwide drives me tremendously. It always has.
MB: I’m curious, you mentioned things you don’t like about the scene. Could you be a little more specific?
Barrett: Scenesters, for one. There’s a lot of fake people in the scene. The best way to explain it is Rob Zombie said “you’re not a fan of Slayer for just one summer.” You’re either a fan or you’re not. That stands true to me completely. I was 13 years old when I got into this and I’m 36 now, and I love it more now than I did then. When I first heard it, it fucking killed me [laughs].
MB: It really is. Personally, I don’t think there is a more powerful audio entity than death metal itself. There is just something about it that brings out the most primal urges in us.
Barrett: Yeah. It’s so misunderstood, too.
MB: It really is. Now, with you, and having things being misconstrued, has anybody ever came up to you and said “this imagery that you’re putting forth offends me”?
Barrett: I’ll give you three perfect examples. My now ex-wife’s parents disowned her because she married me. Animal rights activists came after me because of Cesspool of Vermin’s album cover. Feminist groups come after me because of the obvious perceived violence against women. So, yes, every step of the way, not everything has been good and they come at me.
MB: Obviously with those people coming at you with their concerns, what you do falls under the First Amendment, the right to free speech, so is it only vague threats or have they actually came after you legally?
Barrett: Not legally, no. As far as pictures go, my ex-wife’s parents disowned her because they saw my website. I’m not joking. They did. She was marrying me and they said, “he’s going to kill you,” all because they saw my website. They saw all the artwork and what death metal is, and their daughter is with this guy that does that. Not my band or anything, but they just saw that and immediately said “he’s going to kill you. If you marry him we will disown you.”
MB: [Laughs] Jesus Christ. The way I’ve always looked at death metal is it is the audio equivalent of horror movies.
Barrett: Exactly! That’s exactly what I’ve said since the beginning and even said that in my first magazine. I said that to her parents! [laughs]
MB: We get entranced by what inhumanities can happen. Not everyone wants to commit those acts or have them committed on them.
Barrett: Obviously some people do. But, if we’re going society wise, then yeah, everybody would look at this as a horrible thing. But what is talked about in death metal is atrocities; it’s music, it’s beautiful, it’s everything.
MB: When you say that there is a large fascination with bands in regards to serial killers and shit like that, do you think as gruesome as those things are that they add to the mystique and taboo nature of death metal?
Barrett: Human nature would love to do what a lot of these people. Everyone is fascinated with serial killers in some way. I don’t care if you’re the most Christian mother fucker on the planet, you are obsessed with either why they do it or you want to do what they do. It’s fascinating to people, just the fact that they could hurt others like that with malice and no care at all. I’m sure we all have that capacity in us to do it. I would like to do it sometimes, and I’m sure you would, too, but because of human decency we don’t do it. In a lot of circumstances it’s not right, but in others it is, but cannot be done because of the law.
MB: That seems to be a pretty big deterrent to most people. What would you say in all your years of operating Sevared Records, what would be one of your happiest moments? Anything that stands out in your mind that makes you think “holy shit, this is why I do this”.
Barrett: It’s not one moment. It’s every moment. Being right here and talking to you right now, being at any show or festival, meeting new metalheads. It’s been that way my whole life.
MB: Whenever you’re at a festival like this you bring a big box of CDs with you to sell to people, and as time as gone on digital distribution has gotten a larger foothold in the scene. I know that you have started to move over to a bit of digital distribution as well, and I know people like it and it’s lucrative to you, but because of your old-school nature, does it ever make you a little sad that people may not treasure the physical copies as much as you do?
Barrett: We were talking about this the other night. I’ve got to have that CD in my hand. For example, [Dan of Goemagot] has a lot of stuff on his iPod, which is not a problem because he buys it, but if he tells me to check out this band on it and I’m listening to it, I say it sounds great, but unless I have that album in my hand while I’m listening to it, I form a connection to it. A band sets out to make an album, and they write all the music, get it mixed and mastered, find artwork, and just a whole process of getting it made. Once you get that final product in your hand, it’s a gem. Now, a lot of people that download, they just think, “oh, this band recorded a song, cool. I’ll just download it from some bootleg site in Russia”. To me, it’s the whole experience, not just releasing it, but I know what bands go through, so I want that album in my hand when I know that people have worked so hard to get it out. You can hold it in your hand and it’s just not some file on your computer.
MB: There’s something about underground metal, particularly death metal, black metal, and so forth, that makes its fans so rabid and devoted. Last time I checked there was no such thing as an underground pop scene, but what to you makes this seem so much more extreme and dedicated than anything else out there?
Barrett: Like I said before, you’re not a fan of Slayer for three weeks in the summer. Not that Slayer is considered death metal, but what it is today has become a scene. It’s the biggest thing on the planet that nobody has ever heard of, it just seems so small, yet so fucking big at the same time.
MB: It’s almost like an exclusive club. Once you get it, you get it.
Barrett: Yes! Either you get it or you don’t. It’s that simple.
MB: You’re still working extremely hard with Sevared, are there any upcoming albums that you are really excited about?
Barrett: I am, actually. There’s going to be brand new Waco Jesus, brand new Blood Red Throne and their 15th anniversary, new Deranged, who are my all-time favorite band, and brand new Insision. There’s just all kinds of awesome stuff that’s coming soon, including the new Pathology, which will be out in July.
MB: Speaking of Pathology, when they signed with Sevared Records did it ever come as a surprise to you that they decided to stop touring?
Barrett: No. From what I understand, and don’t quote me on any of this, but when they signed with Victory Records they went on tour for three years non-stop, so they had to do it and touring is draining. If you do it constantly for three years, you get over it really quick. Now they say they aren’t going to tour and just do festivals. Matti Way is back in the band, and it’s going to be the most heavy and brutal album ever, and should be coming out in either July or August.
MB: So they are going with the Bolt Thrower approach. That’s awesome. The last question I have for you is over the years you’ve been doing this, is there anything you want to say to all those supporters out there?
Barrett: I can’t thank anyone enough for supporting Sevared Records. It’s a tremendous thing that people have supported what I’ve been doing, and every fucking band that there is, just keep doing what you’re doing. If you’re for real in this scene, then I look forward to meeting you. I look forward to hearing new albums and interacting with new people. It’s my life.