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Bart Gabriel
Bart GabrielNot only that instead of blood, liquid metal is running through his veins, he also married one of the most charismatic Ladies of Metal (Marta from Crystal Viper) while leading a metal way of life. Producer, A&R, Manager and Music Journalist Bart Gabriel knows metal, lives metal and breathes metal. What better interview partner can one find to have a chat with! I can´t imagine any… Meet the “Bart-Man” of Metal!

 A.K., 05.01.2013

We asked...
 You´ve been living and breathing Metal since a long time, writing for several metal mags and producing bands. So naturally my first question will be: When and how did you get infested by metal music?

Bart: Well, probably like everyone else: I heard Metal and I immediately felt it's my cup of tea. It was somewhere in the '80s, I would say around 1987 or 1988... At least my most distant "Metal memory" goes back in time to 1987, I remember seeing bunch of long haired guys with Helloween and Running Wild backpatches, with spikes, patches and so on - as Running Wild and Helloween were playing in my hometown that day - and I remember thinking how cool it was, you know, that whole "brotherhood" idea. I felt Heavy Metal is something more unique than just a music. I remember we also had this radio program here in Poland named Metal Top 20, and this is where I heard first Metal bands, such as Maiden, Priest, Raven, Accept, Manowar and King Diamond. I also remember that first Metal albums I bought were Maiden "Killers" and King Diamond's "Fatal Portrait".

Looking down the road you already took, what would you name as you most memorable moments? Anything you´re the most proud of? Any regrets?

Some memorable moments actually happen all the time, because I'm always and first of all a huge, huge fan of Metal, so each time when I meet some musicians I respect and like, it's something really special to me. Not longer than few days ago I was talking with John Gallagher of Raven, telling him how big fan of Raven I am, and he told me he remember when we met in Germany some years ago... It's also incredible honor and pleasure for me, to call some of my youth heroes my friends or work with them, like for example David of Virgin Steele, or Andy La Rocque, so yeah, this is something I'm proud of. About regrets: I surely made a lot of wrong decisions in the past, mainly when it comes to trusting people, as many times something what I said or wrote privately, landed on online forums or discussion boards, or when it comes to sacrificing your time and energy to persons who don't give a shit about what you do for them, or behave like they would be your friends only to achieve some benefits. But I don't know if "regret" is the right word. I rather try to think positively, and when I'm angry or pissed, I try to reforge this bad energy into something creative. You can't change the past, and as we all know, what does not kill you makes you stronger.

During your career, you´ve been able to get a deeper look into things, the development of the metal scene and industry as such. What would your personal resumé on the last decades of metal be?

It's surely way, way different than it was back in the day, when I was starting. I was into tape trading, doing xeroed fanzines, writing letters to bands and so on, I don't think something like Internet was even existing. What I like, is that trends come and go, but Metal is always there, for more than 40 decades. I like to take Metal as one piece, of course there are tons of various styles and genres, but I don't care that much about labels - there are bands I like, and bands I don't like in each subgenre, and I don't care if they are called Heavy, Thrash, Death or Black Metal. So to give you short resume: Metal is still doing pretty well, at least in my humble opinion.

In the same vein, what do you believe will be waiting for us (fans and journalists) the next years? How will the metal genre develop?

I don't think Metal will develop, as it's quite hard the reinvent the wheel. Maybe there will be new genres, or new hybrids of genres that already exist, but I wouldn't say it's development. What I think and what I don't like, is that there are no big bands of tomorrow. I mean there will come one day, when bands such as Maiden, Priest, Metallica or Slayer will stop to exist, and there are no bands that could replace them. Of course there are many, many great young bands around, but let's face it - not many so called "stadium" bands, if any, right? I keep my fingers crossed for my friends from Sabaton, it seems they are on the right path.

Since the world wide web has become a mighty tool for promoting and selling music, it was only a matter of time for streaming services like Spotify or the like to become popular. What is your personal feeling about these kind of services from a musicians/producers point of view? Would you consider it a step into the right direction or not? During my comparatively short time as a music journalist (compared to you), I can´t ignore the many times the music industry as such was complaining about how things developed and especially the metal scene, suffering from sales declines and piracy shaking the very foundation of it. Would you underline this development or aren´t things as bad as they´re usually referred to?

Promoting: yes, selling: not so much. It's like double edged sword: while you can promote your band or album in amazing ways, your music is available for free, if you want it or not. Why people should buy legal mp3 files, if they can have them for free? I know few smart guys keep on saying "bands anyway don't make money, it's labels who are getting everything", but it's bullshit in my opinion. I see it that way: bands needs labels, as the truth is in most cases musicians don't realize how hard this business is, and even if you are amazing musician or composer, it doesn't mean you are pr and marketing specialist, you know how to sell your music, how to organize a live show and so on. Labels, managers, magazines, booking agencies, distributors etc. are as much important as the bands. Let's say the band release new album: it's immediately available as a free mp3 download everywhere. No one cares that band had to pay few thousands Euro or Dollars for the studio, that they were working hard for many months, that they had to pay for their instruments, for rehearsal room, that someone had to write these songs, that someone had to do artwork, design the booklet etc. - not to mention musicians are also human beings, they have families, they need to pay bills, and literally buy their food. Music seems to have no value these days, and in many cases great bands simply give up, as playing and recording albums became very, very expensive hobby. You can do it once or twice, but I don't know anyone who likes to loose money all the time. Some time ago I was talking with young girl, she was like 21 or 22, we were talking about music, and when I told her I bought some cool album, she asked me surprised "what for, don't you know you could download it for free?". It seems like young people don't see anything wrong in downloading music or movies for free. Another thing: low album sales - caused by illegal downloads - are cause of lower and lower budgets that labels offer to bands. Low budget means low budget recording, and no one wants to listen poorly recorded and bad sounding albums - so next album will have even worse sales, and the spiral goes down and down. So I would say it's a step into really bad direction, as it works against bands, against labels, producers, recording studios, managers, and everyone else. But it's not the fault of the Internet, but fault of people, who don't respect artists and musicians. It's like blaming the guy who invented gun powder, that people are killing each other. Maybe I'm weird, or maybe I'm simply too old - but when I see nice car, I don't steal it, as it doesn't belong to me, and it's the same with music: I can listen to mp3 files, I can listen to the album online, of course. But if I like it and I want to keep it: I buy it. Simple.

Let´s look into your work as A&R for a moment: When a band comes to you with their demo, what´s the most important aspect they´d have to bring along in order to convince you? What´s that “special something” a band needs to have in your opinion?

I won't be very original here, and I will say that good songs. Even if the band has best singer on earth, guitarist that can play with the speed of light or drummer that can play in 300 bpm tempo without end, they won't go too far when they will have bad songs. You can always send the band to better studio, give them some time to practice, work on their image and stage behavior and so on, but bad song is always a bad song. Of course skills are very important as well, as there is nothing more pathetic, than bands who can't play their own songs live on stage. Setting your goals is another thing: if you want to have a band and play once in a while in local pub and that makes you happy, then great, go for it. But when you are willing to do something more, and you take it seriously, then the sooner you will realize that it's nothing easy, the better for you.

Imagine a band or artist would come to you stating their ambitions to become professionals, seeking your advice. What would be the first advice you´d give them?

I don't need to imagine something like that, as bands and artists come to me with questions like that pretty often, it's part of my job. Even if I can't mention any names here, I can say many bands who worked with me in the past appear these days on magazine covers, what of course makes me very proud. Some of the first advices I always give: work harder. If you play your guitar once a week, or you see your band mates once a week, then I don't have good news for you. Being humble is also very helpful trait: of course I don't mean listening to everyone around, but when you meet someone who has bigger experience than you and achieved something, it's worth to learn something from him. Never ever listen to your family or friends: they will always tell you you are great and it's terrible that no one notice your great talent. Always leave your ego behind the doors, and think over what you want to achieve: if I would get paid after meeting each rockstar who never recorded anything, or each guy who prefer to drink beer instead playing rehearsal, I would be very, very rich. Of course everyone has right to choose his way, and I'm not at the position to judge anyone, but if you choose bottle of beer instead of guitar, don't cry that nothing happens to your band and no one takes you seriously. Then finally: work harder. Take what you do seriously, and work harder.

From my point of view, one could say you´ve reached many goals and achievements. But I bet there are still some dreams left on your personal “To-Do” list. Would you like to tell us any?

Well, surviving in times of Internet with what I do is pretty big achievement, indeed. Actually I don't have any kind of list with things to do, but as dreaming is for free, I would love to see Mercyful Fate reunion, or work with some of my heroes such as King Diamond, Maiden or Priest. I told you I'm a fan, didn't I?

I asked something similar to Marta, so I can´t keep myself from asking you, too. Being married to Marta, a musician you also manage and produce, does it make it easier to work together and or even more difficult to find a bottom line which both can agree to?

I would say it's easier, as first of all Marta is professional musician in true meaning of this word, plus we aren't limited to any "working hours", so for example discussing new song during morning coffee is nothing new or weird. We have no problem with setting bottom line, and when we enter recording studio - I'm her producer, when we go on tour - I'm her manager, not husband. And so I fight with her as hard as with other band members, maybe even harder as I know her possibilities very well.

Working with music on a daily basis naturally makes you listen to many different kinds of bands. But like all of us, you must have this one band you´d name as your own all-time favorite. [And Crystal Viper does not count, in your case ;) ]

Let's start from saying, that I would probably never list Crystal Viper as my favorite band - of course this band has very special place in my heart, but I try to stay objective in everything I do. I realize many people connect me first of all with Crystal Viper as Marta is my wife, but the truth is I produced few more albums in my life, and I worked with few more bands. I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to list just one all-time favorite band, but if I could list few, I would probably start from King Diamond and Mercyful Fate, Bathory, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Cirith Ungol and Manilla Road, Raven, Accept, Cannibal Corpse, Dissection, Watain, Warlord... Such list would be really, really long.

Last but not least, what projects are you currently working with? Anything you´d like to “tease” us with already?

I always work on something and with someone, so something what would be current today, would be outdated tomorrow... But soon we will announce major changes in my Gabriel Management agency, soon we will announce few cool releases coming out on Skol Records... I'm working again with my old friends from High Roller Records and Van Records what is great, I'm also looking forward to produce next albums, one of the last few I did - "The Bloodshed Summoning" from Sacred Steel is coming out next month, so it's pretty cool as well.

Something of a more personal question from me, which may not make it into the published version, but I´d still like to ask: Aside from freelancing as a music journalist, I´ve been writing lyrics / poetry (thought as lyrics) as well. What kind of advice could you give me, hoping to offer them to bands that search for a lyricist?

I used to write some lyrics for bands in the past, for Lonewolf, Crystal Viper, Blood Money or Metalucifer, but since I don't like it very much, probably I'm not right person to ask. But I guess starting from offering this service to your friends who play in bands and have problem with writing own lyrics, could be good idea!

Thank you very much, Bart. If you´d be so kind to provide me with a picture of you we can use when publishing the interview would be really great. Thanks a lot!

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