Interview by Moron

I first came into contact with Van Richter in 1995 after I was turned on to Sielwolf. I ordered "Metastassen" directly from you and received quick service with the one or two email messages I sent. You answered promptly and in a civil manner. Shortly after that you became the center of a lot of controversy on RMI. These days you have pretty much renounced RMI as a haven for gossips and windbags and seem to focus your promotion efforts solely via traditional channels and your web site.
I know that you are probably sick of dealing with this stuff but to do an honest Van Richter piece it seems crucial to include some of this history. With a couple years or so of hindsight, what do think of the events that transpired in 1995 and 1996? Do you have a basic outline of these events (from your rarely heard point of view) that you would like to share? Do feel the record needs to be set straight or do you think it just is not worth the effort? Do you feel that you made any mistakes or that you should have gone about things in a different way?

Paul: I told you no more RMI questions?! This is really trivial bullshit. I am not going to comment on things that were mostly false, made up or rumors. We stated our postion along time ago in a press statement on that newsgroup so I wish people such as your self would not be so obsessed with a newsgroup that really adds nothing productive or supportive to the genre. I do not feel we made any mistakes in addressing the newsgroup and most of those people who wrongly attacked us have long since left the scene. Again our position has been addressed per ad nauseum in previous interviews....move on!

moron: My following questions are not allegations but I feel I should ask some things straight out, especially considering that I help maintain resources such as the EEEI DJ List. First of all, if a DJ solicits VR for promo, what do you feel is their obligation to you? If they do not play your material will you definitely request the material back (and do you make that clear - I have never heard of another label doing this)? Have you ever threatened a DJ for not playing VR releases? Have you ever taken or threatened legal action against a label or radio station for comments made about VR? Have you ever tried to cost a DJ their show because of a falling out between you?

Paul: As a small indie with limited resources we can not afford to service 1000's of DJ's/stations. We do send out over 500 promos on each new release which is more than most labels in the genre! If a DJ solicits material from us it should be under good faith pretenses not just to scam free cds....most are genuine but there are some bad apples out there which get the rap as "promo whores". If this is a scam to get free goods then we certainly ask for material to be returned which we reservice out to worthy stations. We act in the interest of our artists to get the records played. We invite all online solicitations for material to go to our website for full length song perusal to see if they are interested in playing the there is no excuse that it won't get played because it sounded different that they expected. DJ's should support the music they request by spinning it and reporting it to the label/artist so they can develop. To answer your last two and no!

moron: On a lighter note, what do you feel is the appopriate way for a DJ to solicit music? Have you ever had your own radio show or club night?

Paul: A DJ should provide information on their station/show as well as reporting information in their solicitation of the material. A label is more inclined to work with DJ's who do their homework and learn about the artist/label by spending 5 minutes on their website. A DJ should make sure the music fits into their show format before making a blind requests. Remember labels get 1000's of requests for FREE GOODS! DJ's that are willing to go the extra mile and support the bands get the records first and foremost! Yes I had both a college radio show and club night....back in the days when labels serviced no one and DJ's actually had to go out and buy music!

moron: Rightly or wrongly, Van Richter has generated a lot of animosity during its lifetime which seems to exclusively surround people's reaction to you personally. In some circles saying "I just did an interview with Paul Abrahmson" would have me permanently ostracisized. Still, 4 years after duking it out on Usenet, getting little support from the online community, being ignored by many DJ's and generally being treated as a "dirty name" by scene notables you are still alive and kicking. What do you feel has allowed Van Richter to survive in this "hostile" environment? Have your RMI encounters had a driving effect on you (i.e. the feeling of surviving a battle) or do you simply not think about it?

Paul: We don't understand what you are referring to...we have not been a regularly active member of RMI since 1995! What has allowed us to survive is having some of the best bands in the genre! RMI has little or no impact on our activities. A website is the most important online tool for music driven companies. Yet you do not mention that we have probably the deepest content site on the net of over 300mb! Our site is completely interactive and generates over 10,000 hits in traffic daily! We have won numerous awards for navigation and content. We were one of the first sites to go to MPEG3 and Real Audio, Quick Time videos. You can literally listen to every VR title in its entirety with no download time. Everything you wanted to know about us and our bands is on line...with interactive press kits, lyrics, liner notes etc.....Again RMI traffic pails compared to website activity!

moron:I have noticed that Van Richter CD's seem to have very good distribution, in particular they show up in mainstream outlets that other smallish labels would never make it into. What is VR's secret?

Paul: Quality product. We are not a production house like many competitors that just pump out whatever they get their hands on! VR stands for quality not quantity! That is what a good Distributor looks for first and foremost...and a Label that supports every release like we do!

moron: Further along that line, small labels tend to get fucked over en masse by many distributers. How do you deal with this and do you have any horror or success stories you'd like to share?

Paul: No distributor is perfect..even branch distribution. It is a tightwire act as long as your product sells more reputable distributors will pay what they owe you. It is better to get a national exclusive contract so you have some rights as well as treated more seriuosly. Secondary distributors don't care about your product and you are at the end of the chain for payment. As I can recall we have never been stiffed but some that have been really bad about paying were Caroline, Smash, TCI and Pulse Soniq. Our national distribution with Bayside so far has been the best even though they are still growing their account base outside Tower Records.

moron: I am somewhat intrigued by your apparent adoption (mutual) it seems of Tommy T of DSBP "infamy". Tommy has used many of the same "tactics" as you did early on. Specifically, posting incessantly to RMI (as you used to - this is not in doubt as Deja News backs this up), being very confontational in posts, decrying himself as the saviour of the scene (I don't remember you going that far but I do believe you stressed how you were part of the "real underground") etc. I have had a few personal exchanges with Tommy both in RMI and via email and the reason I find this so fascinating is that you two seem to have so much in common. Your early hassles on RMI are very similar to the problems encountered by Tommy in his many tirades against music he doesn't personally like. Musically and aesthetically your tastes seem pretty similar and your attitudes come across in very similar manner (I am not the only one who has drawn this conclusion by the way). How did you two meet up? Do you folks actively work together or is it more a matter of mutual respect?

Paul: Tommy contacted us for servicing when he started a radio show at KUNM. Our company is nothing like Tommy's nor our business practices. I can not comment on his RMI tactics as I do not know them first hand but I disagree with your tiresome RMI allegations against us which I will no longer comment on. Actually Tommy was one of the best college DJ's in the country until he started his really DIY label and turned his public radio show into his own private infomercial...only playing bands that he sells from his house. So any respect we had is we feel he has sold out...even if it is considered to be still underground material. There is nothing in commmon between our professional company and his DIY company. We sign bands to contracts, give them advances, market and promote their product thru viable market distribution. Tommy has no bands signed, does mostly comps of bands that pay him to be on his records, has no promotion and marketing outside of the 30 or so DJ's that report to RPM college and has no market viable distribution let alone bar codes. So overall I find your comparisons inappropriate and offensive.

moron: With regards to music, VR has released very little original content and seems almost exclusively to liscense other labels material. What made you take this route and what makes you decide to release something? How do you go about licensing your acts? Do you plan to sway from this pattern in the future?

Paul: Again I disagree and find your questions to be more critisms. So far every so called question you ask has negative connotations! Of the 15 titles we have in the catalog to date roughly 1/3 have original content. Infact our biggest band TESTIFY is signed to us worldwide and was just licensed to Novatekk for Germany, Austria and Switzerland. TESTIFY has toured Europe with Die Krupps as well as just off the road with Armageddon Dildos! Originally we founded VR to bring bands to the states from Europe and Canada worthy of exposure in our market. We saw a big market for this for partner labels that could not get the music into the states. This was our initial plan which has now evolved into an artist development Label which has now included the signing of Girls Under Glass. Our priority is to develop leading artists in the genre's careers!

moron: VR has been going for a number of years now. Do you have a "real job" or are you actually able to sustain yourself directly from label? How about the other staff there? What kind of sales figures do VR releases achieve?

Paul: We all have other sources of income. The label now does carry itself so was we can release more records. All revenues go back into the company to support the band! No one takes a salary here! We do it because we love the music and believe in the bands! All our titles average between 5,000-10,000 units

moron: Finally, what can we expect to see from Van Richter in the future? Will you ever venture back into RMI waters? Any final comments you would like to make?

Paul: We plan to stay the course and hopefully get our bands to north america to tour in support of their releases! Look for all the latest Van Richter news on our website including upcoming releases, record release parties etc...We monitor RMI once in a while but no one as before is saying anything of redeeming value. Websites are the wave of the future and that is why we have put such resources into ours which has been deemed one of the best by the internet community! How about some positive questions/comments in support of what we are doing...after all we are getting great music out to people like about supporting it with a carrot not a stick!