Label profile interview by Shaun Hamilton

So, first, tell us a bit about yourself as a person. What are your hobbies, likes, pet peeves, etc.?

Music has been my passion for 41 years however I enjoy other past times such as sports, movies, gourmet cuisine, fine art, marine science, sailing, travel as well as driving my scooter when I have a chance. Pet peeves unfortunately are those closely associated with the music industry such as flakes, phonies, and those that cheat and rip us off.

How did you get involved with the legendary Wax Trax Records and what was your role in the label?

I was born and raised in Chicago. A close friend was running the legendary Medusas nightclub which was the primary showcase for the seminal Wax Trax bands of the day such as Ministry, My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult, Front 242, Die Warzau etc. And they needed someone to do sales, promotions, and A & R for the label in Southern California in the mid to late 1980's.

Would you say that Van Richter is a continuation of the Wax Trax ethic or something completely different?

I would say we initially followed Jim Nash's early blueprint by focusing on a core of select quality bands in the industrial genre which we have continued to date. At Wax Trax there was always a trademark sound that you associated with every release which we have continued at Van Richter. I always want us to maintain that integrity and remain a boutique artist development label.

When and why did you start Van Richter Records?

I left the business in late 1989 but maintained my interest as a fan. The main reason I returned to the scene was because there were so many great bands in Europe that were not being signed and released in the states. Some of these foreign bands / labels were so desperate for deals they even put these requests in their liner notes. I saw a niche as well as opportunity to fulfill in late 1993.

How would you say Van Richter compares ethically to other labels in the scene these days, and it's attitudes towards the bands you and they sign?

I believe besides the extreme downturn in the music space that we endeavored to act ethically to our bands, the industry and public. Unfortunately there are still a lot of bad actors out there is this business / scene that are bringing it down by flooding the already over saturated music market with poor material, ripping off the artist among other things. Those labels are putting nails in the coffin of what is left of our business.

When signing a band, what do you look for in that band?

The music always comes first. It must be compelling as well as the band having the potential to be a leader in the genre. Then image and hopefully some fan base always helps with the entire package. A good live performance is the best self promotion for any band.

Do you have a favorite band on the label?

All speak to my different moods. Testify being aggressive Aggro, Sielwolf - Experimental Noise, The Fair Sex - darkwave, Plastic Noise Experience -EBM, Death and Horror Inc - dark industrial, and Girls Under Glass- Gothic The most loyal though through the years has been Testify

With the advent of MP3's and technology making the music so much easier to get for free, it is argued that it is killing the industry. With the sharp decline of the industry, what keeps you going during these bleak times?

My drive never to quit. I feel like we are on a sinking ship and I am the captain. There is no way this industry will survive in its current form. People don't realize that every time they download and burn a song for free both the artist and label are being cheated out of their livelihood. Independent labels, Artists, Stores, and Distributors are going out of business daily as we speak. In the future you will have a very limited selection of music from one huge corporate conglomerate music company making it available at one huge corporate generic chain store. The hand writing is on the wall.

With Van Richter being one of the few sticking to its guns and sticking to industrial, do you think true industrial may one day make a comeback?

At this point we are just looking to survive. If any music comes back then why not industrial. Even though we have a limited roster the benefit is that our bands like Testify can cross over to more commercial genres such as metal.

What got you into industrial and what are some of your favorite bands?

I always loved the old school bands (Mins - NIN) but my favorites are the great underdog bands that were incredible but never accepted for some reasons- ie. Swamp Terrorists, Oomph among others.

Rumor has it you have a new signing on the way. Any info on this new group and what they have to offer?

A cross between Swamps and Testify. Stay tuned?..

Have you ever had any musical projects or toured on the road with any bands?

Actually since the landscape for new talent is as bleak as sales. We are looking at doing an old school Aggro project in house. Stay tuned?.

I've noticed as well you don't give up on any of your signed bands. What is your attitude towards labels often singing then disposing of bands, esp. ones of great talent?

It is not about the music to them just sales or volume. They are just bean counters. Unfortunately some of these bands never recover like a Swamps who were killed off by their label and manager.

How does your limiting the number of signings to the label help versus signing every other band under the sun?

We can be hands on and manage every aspect of a band's career. That is what artist development is all about. Most independent labels have small staffs so why are they pumping out more releases then they can properly promote and market? This is not fair to the artist.

To you, what is industrial and aggro, both musically and emotionally?

It is dark angry and aggressive music that speaks to the angst in me. It is where punk and new wave left off in the 80's. It should have been the anthem of the next generation of disenfranchised youth.

How did you come up with the name Van Richter?

An abbreviated version of a great underground club in Amsterdam. It translates from Dutch to "on the richter scale" and is the perfect image of a California record label that releases European industrial music.

When signing German bands such as Sielwolf and Girls Under Glass, does that make it more difficult to sell over here in the States or are people more interested for that fact?

The hardest part is not being able to have them play live in the states. We do what we can with radio, press, retail, clubs, lifestyle and grass roots promotion and marketing to get the word out on the bands.

What is the future plans for the label besides stomping down the Future Pop fad?

Staying true to the old school of industrial! We hope to weather this storm of the worst economics in the music industry in 100 years. We will be planning new releases as market conditions warrant. Right now we have at least five records ready for release. We shall see?..

If you could sign any two bands in the world past or present, who would they be?

Oomph and Swamps.

Ok, kind of goofy question before we go: You've lived in both areas, so how would you rate Chicago women versus California women?

In general - California girls have the looks, Chicago girls have the hearts.

Any prophetic words of wisdom before we go?

Remember the prophecy as of what is yet to come, as illegal downloading, illegal promotional cd sales, bootlegs among other forms or piracy are writing the obituary of the music industry. If you are a true music fan you better buy up your favorite records now as most of us won't be around in the near future. This unfortunately is the sad truth.