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16/12/2007 – Interview with RAZAR ICE RECORDS

Around the end of October I had an interview with bassist/manager Mike Saffrie from the new Dutch Gothic band LA-VENTURA. Their debut album, "A New Beginning" came out weeks before the interview and to further promote the band and album an interview had to be made. Due to certain problems, LA-VENTURA left Razar Ice Records in July and decided to do everything themselves for the band and the album. Last month, on the 14th of November, I got a mail via MySpace from Razar Ice Records (official website) regarding the interview with LA-VENTURA.

It all started with this, from the LA-VENTURA interview (29/10/07):

Last year you signed a deal with the American label Razar Ice Records. All was going well apparently, until a few months ago you decided to terminate the contract and take matters into own hands. 1) What was the cause of this? Weren't you more watchful when signing a deal? 2) How easily did you find the right people for the production/mixing/mastering?

Mike: Whenever it is apparent that you do not get the support or when promises stay promises, you have to be realistic. Can this party produce the goods or not? In this case: not. We had a lot of things riding on the release date in October. In July we again received notice that this release date wasn't going to happen, because of the album that wasn't mixed yet (everything for it was delivered in January!!!), no artwork was done/ finished, nothing was clear about promo etc etc etc. The deal itself was perfect, the people who worked for the label unfortunately were not up for the task.

I myself work in the music/ entertainment bizz as a professional. In this bizz one thing is key: have a good network. With a few phone calls the whole production was safe and ready to go. Everything was done in record time: it took only 3 weeks to do the final tweaks on the music, get it all mixed, mastered, artwork ready and shipped out to go to get it manufactured!

Razar Ice Records wanted to correct/give their point of view on what was explained by Mike. Below you can read their side of the story.

Razar Ice Records logo

Razar Ice Records started the contacts with LA-VENTURA via MySpace, if I read well. The talks lead to a contract. Did you accidentally stumble upon them or was it via via that you heard of them?

Yes, we stumbled upon them on MySpace. We enjoyed their song "Trefoil". So we contacted them.

How soon was their an agreement between you two?

Well, I would have to say approximately around 3 months. We should have known right from the beginning that there would be problems with them. Mike (the bass player and so called management) wanted to make many changes in the contract, which we obliged him with most of what he wanted, because we really believed in the band. We don't customarily change any of our contracts.

How many times did you meet the band? How good was the contact?

We have never met the band. The contract was iron clad for two albums. They likely would have made good money if we would have kept them onboard.

You mentioned in your first reply there were problems from the get go. What happened and did the situation improve or worsen during the months that followed?

Mike (bassist/manager) wanted everything done his way. There was NO team effort between him and RIR. He dealt and spoke to us as if we didn't know what we were doing and he was in complete control, which he was not. It got so bad that we had to cut off all contact with Mike and only would speak with Carla or Erwin, which sadly put them in the middle. Mike is a very controlling, egotistical, arrogant kind of person and must have things done when he says so. Mike would go out and make arrangements without even talking with RIR. RIR NEVER set a release date. MIKE did this on his own and expected us to stick with HIS release date, therefore making it appear that we let them down when in fact there was never a release date at all other than one from the band who was not in control of the finished product.

Mike (bassist, manager) said they sent you everything in January, yet you say it was late spring when everything was delivered. In July the band was warned that the album wasn't mixed nor mastered yet, and the cover art wasn't even drawn either. On the other hand, singer Carla Douw said the following in an interview with - link (in Dutch only): (roughly rephrased) the studio for the mixing/mastering was overbooked and producer Ty Tabor (KINGS X) wasn't available. So the release was postponed and everything sent to Italy. Since there was no news, the producer there got taken off the case, so to speak, and you/RIR were going to look for another studio in the USA. That was apparently too much for the band, as it jeopardized the release date for The Netherlands. So they decided to take matters into own hands. Could you elaborate on this, what Mike stated and what Carla added?

La-Ventura - A New BeginningMike wanted the tracks to be done and sent to us in December of 2006 and it was not delivered to us in this time period, which was fine. RIR was not in any hurry. We try to give all our artists all the time that they need to write good material. 11 out of the 12 songs were given to RIR in late January to early February of 2007. RIR asked that some changes be made at that time to some of the songs, since the band had changed the songs that previously were approved by RIR. We were having trouble with the song "The Hunter". RIR didn't feel that is was up to our standards and Mike begged to keep the song, so we gave in. Like we did many times. The last track, "A New Beginning", was delivered to us on 06/12/07 (= 12th of June - Tim). (I have the emails to prove) We would not send out material to be mixed and mastered until we have ALL the material. As soon as we got the last track we sent it to Italy, being now that Ty Tabor was booked because LA-VENTURA took longer for this last song. We did have some problems with the studio in Italy, so RIR decided to send the material to another recording studio we use here in the United States. LA-VENTURA was not happy with this they demanded the material to be completed immediately and we usually don't react well to demands. We explained to them that these things happen all the time in this business. Mike continued to tell us we didn't know what we were doing and wanted to do the mixing and mastering himself. We offered him this option many months previously and Mike turned it down, but after hearing the changes he had made in the approved material we were not going to allow him to finish the project himself. As for the artwork, that was completely up to the band. They found the artist and Carla was in-charge of working with him; it had nothing to do with us, other than our approval, which we allowed them to use artwork we hated.

Mike also wanted to release the album in October, which they did. You said it wouldn't be a good time then. Is October (or around) a bad period to release something or did other factors play along? And which date did you have in mind?

We couldn't set a release date until we had a finish or close to finished product. Mike was the one who kept on insisting on the beginning of October. There was not a release date in the contract nor stated by RIR, the band set up the release date on their own and then expected us to work to their timeframe, unbelievable.

La-Ventura bandAccording to Mike, it was the band's decision to leave RIR. You said you let the band go, since there was a contract and the band couldn't cancel it on its own. Can you go a little further into this?

RIR had many staff meetings on how to deal with LA-VENTURA over the months they were signed with us. In an online MSN conversation with Carla I found out that Mike was trying to find a way to get out of the contract with us. This was the last straw. We did everything for this band. They got the songs that they wanted, they got the artwork that they wanted. It seemed like everytime we turned around it was another problem with them. Mike was just pushing and pushing and we had finally had enough. So RIR told them that they were going to be released from their contract with us, being that is what Mike wanted anyway. Without us 'dropping' the band there is no way the band could just up and leave the label, we had an iron clad contract and the only way to for them to leave us was if RIR had breached the contract, which we had not, or they had to submit certain paperwork in which we may allow them to leave.

A couple of months ago, before the release, LA-VENTURA posted a blog saying RIR was selling CD-R's of "A New Beginning", even though the band was ready to release the album themselves. What is true about this?

LA-VENTURA was still under contract at that time. They had paperwork that the WHOLE band needed to sign and a timeframe to do it in and Mike took things into his own hands and he was the only one who signed it. We let him know he did this wrong and needed the whole band to sign this paper and again it became an argument with him. He accused us of harassing him for telling him he did the paperwork wrong. We still have yet to get that paperwork, so the band is technically still signed to RIR. But we are no longer wanting ANYTHING to do with them. We did sell "A New Beginning" to re-coop our investment which is within our rights.

LA-VENTURA is seen as the winners, RIR sort of as the bad label. Did you get mails from fans about the matter?

No, we actually we got supportive emails from other labels, some fans and other musicians saying that under those cirsumstances they would have done the same thing. And as for LA-VENTURA looking like winners: well, everybody comes off looking good when you lie to make yourself look better. The album tanked, they did no promo or support for it, even the video they made wasn't used. I have read on another site that LA-VENTURA is stating that they were only with us for 2 months. I guess that they just can't seem to get their story straight. We have emails and saved conversations on MSN for our proof.

Have you had such situations before and if so, were you now more prepared to tackle the problems faster?

No, we have NEVER worked with a band that has had this kind of attitude and problems before.

Something more general now... What criteria do you use to sign a band or not? And does it matter which style they play?

Well, we listen to ALL the demos that come in and search online as well. It doesn't really matter what style they play, as long as we enjoy it and they play it well. Well, I will take that back, I don't think we would ever release Country music. We just can't seem to get into that style.

Do you have a good view on the European Metal scene? How would you compare it with the USA?

They Euro scene is tremendously better than America, the fans still have that fire for rock and metal, whereas the American audiences are very fickle in their tastes that changes with the wind.

Are there bands you like to sign or would like to have signed in the past?

We've been very happy with the artists we have signed in the past with the exception of LA-VENTURA. I can't think of any bands out there now that I feel we have missed out on. If a deal doesn't happen, it's probably not supposed to anyways.

A typical question that has been asked many times to many bands: what's your opinion (personal and professional) on illegal downloading? And do you have a solution to prevent/counter it?

We don't approve of that at all. How will artists be able to continue making the music everyone wants if they end having to do it for free? Something has to change, that's for sure, but we're stuck in this weird transitional period between digital and physical. At this point we don't see any easy way to prevent or counter the illegal downloading issue at all.

Thanks for wanting to clarify some issues and giving a different view on the situation. All the best to you and good luck with RIR.

Thanks for giving us a forum to present the truth about the situation. We trust that Karma will enlighten Mike and LA-VENTURA at some point and we are already on to bigger and better deals namely our recent signing of NWOBHM legends TOKYO BLADE.

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