Transubstans (Interview)

by Scott Heller

From Aural Innovations #35 (January 2007)

Transubstans is a fairly new record label based in Malmö, Sweden and run by the Danish man, Johnny. He is slowly building up Transubstans into a world known label with bands from Sweden, Denmark and Norway. I caught up with Johnny recently and asked him a few questions about music, the record label, and the record industry in general. Enjoy...

Scott Heller (SH): When did you first get into music?

Johnny: Well, I think I have to thank my dad for that. He had, and still has, a quite big LP collection of late 60's / early to mid 70s music and all those covers just caught my attention. One of my earlier memories from my childhood is when pop come home and tells me that now we are going to listen to good music. Now we are talking bands like NAZARETH, STATUS QUO, STEPPENWOLF, GASOLIN, ETC. The interest stayed, and in the late 70's I find my self collecting empty bottles and buying records with cool covers from the money I get selling those bottles. And this is the time where my individual taste is pointed out as well, apart from what my dad brought home, THIN LIZZY, PINK FLOYD etc. As I grew older, and even got some friends into music at an age of 10, we started to explore other types of music - hard rock, heavy metal, thrash / speed / black metal in the early 80's to '84. In '85 I got my work, and suddenly had much more money, which I spent on music again, and found myself diving into industrial and indie music (I never left my metal roots !), and in '86 the hardcore punk made a heavy impact on me. From '84 I had begun to write trash metal fanzines. But now, I totally freaked on all those ultra fast & furious bands like SEPTIC DEATH, WRETCHED, INDIGESTI, ANTI CIMEX, RATOS DE PORAO etc, and for a few years I only listened to hardcore. Then in 1992 a new world opened for me when I was brought into the progressive and psychedelic world, and this is where I still am today. If I see what I listened to this week, we find hardcore OUT OF ORDER, WILLFUL NEGLECT, synth of FOETUS and NITZER EBB, a bunch of metal vinyl AC DC, TROUBLE, SAINT VITUS, even some punk like 45 GRAVE, and of course tons of psych / acid folk & progressive music. At this very moment I listen to Czech band MODRY EFFEKT. Long answer... puh... but to put a perspective on the years, I am a '69:er.

SH: Have you been a record collector yourself currently or in the past?

Johnny: You find much of this answer in the answer above. But yes, of course, I was and still am a record collector. It is a poison I assume. Although I am not as hysterical as I was a 4-5 years ago. Through the years I've bought thousands of albums, but also sold quite much of it again. These days I do not say I collect, but I try and build up a library of music that I can listen to when I want. So I am pretty much into quality, not quantity, these days. Taste varies, but still much to explore in the psychedelic field. I have all the metal / hardcore / punk I want at this point. But even that I care more about quality these days. I bring home a 3-5 albums each week. 4-5 years ago, I bought around 2-3 albums each day.

SH: How did you enter the record business?

Johnny: Well, first of all, I played in a band in early 90's, and we did release our own records. More seriously I had a label in mid 90's called HEPATIT D RECORDS, who did 15 records or so. Most seriously is of course my "new" label Transubstans Records which I started 3 years ago. I bought Record Heaven from my former chief and did not want to continue with his old musical direction, so I started a new label, and here we are today.

SH: When did Record Heaven turn into Transubstans and where did you get the new name from?

Johnny: Hmm... should read the next question before I answer the first ones. But I bought Record Heaven around 3 years ago after my former boss had no time for it. Record Heaven Records was doing a lot of melodic hard rock, which was not really my bag of tea. I think, those I was responsible for were more stoner rock or progressive music. And this was also the form of music that I wanted to work with. So now I work in the fields of heavy progressive, stoner rock, space rock, psychedelia, as well as some 70's re-issues. I am a friend of guitars, mellotron and spaced out keyboards.

SH: Transubstans will soon have released more than 20 CDs. This is quite good for a label in just 3 years. They must be selling quite ok. Any comments?

Johnny: Well, I do not really know what to say. The mail order is doing well. So we push quite money into the label. The label is not doing as good as I like it to, but there are many good bands around these days and we work with quite a few. The CDs is selling quite well, but I would like to do better. But it is really hard to get proper distribution in all countries, and also getting the releases into the mail orders that specialise in this kind of music. Still, I do not complain, I know labels that are doing a lot worse than we are doing. And I assume this autumn will be our most busy to this date.

SH: Do you get a lot of people sending you their music hoping that you will choose to release their music? How many bands send music every month?

Johnny: More and more are sending their music to us. We may get 4-5 each week or so, but mostly Scandinavian bands, although lately more worldwide bands are contacting us. And we are always interested to hear your music within the heavy progressive, psychedelia, space rock, acid folk, stoner rock, 70's hard rock, symphonic and their subgenres. We reply to all letters, and we also helped some bands to find a label for their release as we try and help out bands we do not think fit our label to find the label for them.

SH: How does Transubstans decide on what kind of music to release?

Johnny: Well, we have no musical limits, but I must like what we are releasing. None of our releases have been released because we think it would "cash in". I would release a band even if it would sell only 100 copies as long as it was a CD I wanted in my own collection. Transubstans is a label who release music we like, and nothing else, and it even comes to the point that Konrad, who also works at Transubstans Records, asks me to not play a release when we have finally released it as he is dead-tired of it.

Johnny: What is your opinion about MP3 sharing-selling and the future of the CD industry?

Johnny: Well, if we begin with the sharing, I do not understand why people are uploading music they do not have the right to do. It has never been more simple to ask the band or the label if they are allowed to upload some of their favourite music into their homepage / blogs. Basically, I have no problem if people want to upload music that I have released on their sites, but I would prefer not to upload the whole albums. When I started to investigate some blogs, I found several of my releases there, and I have to say I was not too happy about that. If they had contacted me first it would have been no big deal. On these blogs there is not even info on where to buy the album, which is a shame. I have full understanding that people upload albums that are not available these days, but music still in print?? For downloading and paying for it I am maybe even more sceptic as long as the homepages like Apple, I-Tunes etc charges 50%, and this is where I have no understanding for people who say that they do not support major labels, but think it is OK to pay for downloads. Apple are soon more rich than Universal, Warner etc are. The CD industry will remain, but only small quantities will be done. Once the 60's, 70's and half of the 80's generation stops buying CD's / vinyl's there are no return, and only download will exist. Bands will have hard time to be able to finance a CD release, and labels will not do any physical CDs anymore. And the first one to go is the underground labels / bands. This is scenery that I think will come reality, but really hopes that I am wrong believing !!

SH: Your label currently only releases CDs. What do you think about releasing vinyl?

Johnny: Some bands have asked me about this, and we have some thoughts to investigate a little about this. Some other labels have contacted me to licence our releases, and I have no problem with that. Somehow Record Heaven customers are used to the CD versions.

SH: Any upcoming releases you can mention?

Johnny: As I said earlier, this will be our most busy autumn. We have MAGNOLIA from Sweden. A heavy duty band with roots in the 70's hard rock, crossing MOUNTAIN with HIGHWAY ROBBERY, with lyrics in Swedish, like ABRAMIS BRAMA & SVARTE PAN. We have GOST BERLINGS SAGA, which are groovy 70's prog like TRAD, GRAS & STENAR and KEBNEKAIJSE. We have VILLEBRD which are more in the direction of prog of LANDBERK & ANEKDOTEN. We have 4th album from Norwegian LUCIFER WAS, said to be their heaviest album so far, we have 2nd album from ORESUND SPACE COLLECTIVE, which should be more guitar based this time, space rock deluxe. We have CARPET KNIGHTS going into the studio again, as well as GARGAMEL.

SH: Any last comments?

Johnny: Well, I would like to take the opportunity and thank Scott for this interview, and I hope you got a little bit more wiser by reading this interview. We are always interested in trades with other similar labels / artists. Just get in touch with us. Keep supporting the underground, and enjoy a cold beer.

For more information you can visit the Transubstans Records web site at: http:/

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