The Genesis of the End
CoC interviews Andreas Katsambas of The End Records
by: Aaron McKay
Many times things remain an enigma that would be of the utmost interest to people would they have known about it. For instance, have you or someone you've known ever held a position in a company where an advancement opportunity comes along? Subsequently, the job is filled before you even know about it, but you would have applied if given the chance. The End Records is something like that in the way they are an untapped precious music resource for anyone's use. As you will bear witness to in this interview with one of the label's originators, Andreas Katsambas, this company has a unique history and a rare talent for non-duplication of a band's sound that happens to already be signed to The End. Progressive and most certainly forward-thinking, Andreas is also a benevolent sort the likes of which is rarely seen. Enjoy this e-mail interview with Mr. Katsambas, whose energy and passion for his business ultimately knows no limits in The End.

CoC: When The End put out the compilation _White: Nightmares in the End_ release, there is a nice history of the label inside the cover. For those readers who do not have the CD in their collection, could you tell us a bit about the history of The End and Sergey Makhotin?

Andreas Katsambas: Yes, the _White_ compilation was our second compilation release. The first one, _Until the End of Time_, was released the second month we started as a label as a means to create an awareness for the label and our bands at the time. The _White_ compilation was released in the summer of 1999 and for me it was the point that marked the second wave of the label. The first wave was to get a name and become established and the second was a step up where we would show everybody that now that we are here, this is what we have to offer. So I decided in the booklet of the comp to explain who we are as a label, how and why we signed our bands and what are the plans for the future. I will try and sum it up in a few words: The End had its first release in January of 1998. It started between myself and Sergey Makhotkin, whom I've known since college. Both of us really liked metal music and after we came across some amazing unsigned bands, i.e. Mental Home, Nokturnal Mortum, Odes of Ecstasy and Sculptured, we decided to start a small label and help them out. It actually started as a hobby but it kept getting more and more serious. Our goal from the beginning was to release music we really liked and work with bands with strong artistic skills. Plus we make sure that every band we sign sounds different from what we already have. If we have a band like Nokturnal Mortum, there is absolutely no reason to sign a band that sounds like them. I can even proudly say that even the bands themselves try to do something different with each of their releases. And while we work very closely with our bands, we allow them total freedom and tend to work around their schedule. So after three years we are still around and with every release we are we hope to make our small mark to the scene. We now do more advertisements and promotion than ever plus we also work the new releases with outside promoters, i.e. we use The Syndicate for all our radio promotion. And this year we have actually added another person, Tomer Pink, to our staff who handles the mail-order and distribution.

CoC: I know that most know the compilation as _White_. How did the subtitle, "Nightmares in the End", come into being?

AK: With the compilation and our newsletter we always try to have a title that contains the words "The End". For example, the first compilation was entitled _Until the End of Time_. In addition, the _White_ comp came with a very basic cover (the reason was that we wanted people to buy it for the music itself and nothing else), and thus we wanted a title that kind of gave a hint of the kind of music that was featured inside. At the same time we like to use contradictory terms or non-conforming effects. Inside the booklet we wrote a story on why we called the album _White_ and the last sentence may hint that The End is a very serene state of being, but then album title adheres the exact opposite meaning, which is, expect nightmares in the end. And obviously the layouts are all white and minimalist while the music is truly dark and quite complex.

CoC: It seems to me that The End is filling a key gap in providing music to the world from places like the Ukraine. Do you agree and if so, why is that?

AK: I guess we would sign a band regardless on their origin. Considering the small size of the label, we are quite an international group of individuals. I'm from Cyprus, Sergey from Russia, Tomer from Israel and we have bands from Ukraine, Norway, USA, Greece, Czech Republic, Australia, etc. To us, what matters mostly is the quality of the music, and only then the country they are coming from. And with the internet and recent technological revolutions we have the capability to deal with bands from anywhere in the world. Once, the Mental Home master CD got lost in the mail and in order to meet the deadlines they actually transferred the sound files over the internet!

CoC: Do you feel that having roots from Greece has given you and The End a unique perspective on metal?

AK: I am sure it had a strong effect in shaping up my musical tastes. I was taught to appreciate classic art and I am also deeply inspired by ancient Greek mythology. Maybe that's what gave me the drive to always search for the artistic, the dark and tragic in music. Also, I cannot stand shallow music. It has to have a really deep meaning and strong inspiration to capture me.

CoC: You and Sakis from Rotting Christ are pretty good friends, aren't you?

AK: Yes, we know each other for a while now. Last time we met was actually at the Milwaukee MetalFest a few years ago, although he calls me every now and then and we also correspond via e-mail. He is one of the few Greek musicians I kept contact with. I hope they tour the US soon again, as I like their live shows.

CoC: The End has some type of working agreement with Century Media for distribution, correct? If so, how is that working out?

AK: Century Media did license one of our albums, which was the latest Mental Home, _Upon the Shore of Inner Seas_. Besides that, they carry our titles through their mail-order. We also had some releases licensed to other labels in Europe, i.e., Nokturnal Mortum to Nuclear Blast, etc. But other than that, we are a small self-financed underground label.

CoC: Andreas, I know that you are also a writer for the magazine Ill Literature, so interviewing is nothing new to you. Is this the first time you, personally, have been interviewed?

AK: I get interview requests quite often. Overall, I try to keep a low profile on the label and work more on promoting the bands instead, but it seems that people do want to know what is going on with The End and how it started. I guess people think of us as an unusual label with unusual releases and want to know about it. That was actually the reason I wrote the story which was included within the White comp. I started getting too many questions and thus wrote a general bio of the label. And while it was informative, it actually sparked numerous new questions from people! <laughs>

CoC: In your experience, have you had success in dealing with other labels, press people, and bands?

AK: Just like any other industry you have to deal with all kinds of people in various aspects of the business. One thing that separates the metal scene is that you can deal with very good professionals (i.e. a major magazine, press plant) to a high-school student that runs a fanzine or has a radio show. Plus, since I am also a metal fan, in many conversations I blend business with various other music topics and most of the time it's just friendly conversations. Overall we have very good relationships with everyone else. My top priority though is the well-being of our bands. Since they trusted us with their music I want to make sure we keep up to the task.

CoC: Speaking of that, one of the best pieces I remember you doing is one with Septic Flesh and, of course, the Slayer interview where you had the -whole- band there in person for a face-to-face intie. Do you have a favorite review or an interview that you done previously?

AK: My favorite interview is by far the one with Slayer. I drove with Marco Barbieri [editor of Ill Literature] to their rehearsal studio in Anaheim, and as Kerry King was late we just had various other conversations with the rest of the members. Then the interview was with the whole band and right after that they did a rehearsal of their live set. As it was the night before their show, they played the whole set exactly as they do on stage and I was quite overwhelmed. Slayer is my top metal band and it was a dream-come-true getting to meet them in person, let along do an interview with them. In regards to phone interviews, my favorite was with Garm. Not only has he released some of the most amazing albums of the '90s (Arcturus, Ulver, etc.), he is also very intelligent and he gave very thoughtful answers.

CoC: Heaven knows you have helped me with some intricate computer questions I have had in the past. It truly seems to me that you are very good with programs and the internet, among other things computer related. Is this a hobby turned into a passion or just a gift you possess?

AK: Yes, it started as hobby, as I never took any computer courses. It seems that metal and computers were my main hobbies and I consider myself quite fortunate that my main occupation involves both. My first ever computer related full-time job was with Century Media and at the moment I maintain their website and computer administration. Sometimes it can get a bit stressful, but I like it as it is challenging and it is constantly evolving with new technologies and concepts.

CoC: Turning things back to bands you are associated with, unlike some other labels, The End seems to have a very wide variety of metal signed with you. For instance, the subdued sounds of Agalloch to the elaborate efforts of Mental Home to the concentrated material of Mistigo Varggoth Darkestra. Is this a conscious effort on the label's part to strive from something diverse or unique?

AK: Yes, we always look to sign unique bands. We have a few beliefs that we stick quite strongly to them and look after in each band. Of course, we have to really like their music and see them as an evolving band with potential to grow and offer unique releases to the scene. We also try to sign bands that sound different from the ones we already carry. And we really like bands that work around dark melodic angles and manage to successfully blend various styles of music.

CoC: Tell me, if you would, a little bit about one of my favorite groups: Epoch of Unlight! How did they come to be on The End?

AK: We actually signed the band in November of 1997 before we even registered as a company. We got their promo from Marco Barbieri, who at the time also wrote for Metal Maniacs, and said he was very impressed by their demo. We checked it out and we liked it very much! When we actually contacted the band they were a bit skeptical since they previously had some really bitter experiences with other labels. But after a few conversations things got much better and we signed them up. Since then they have recorded two albums with us and we have also managed to help them go on a national tour with Samael and Dimmu Borgir! What's interesting though is that people ask me why we signed a band like Epoch of Unlight as they are a more traditional extreme band while we tend to go with somewhat more bizarre sounding acts. The fact though is that I define a band that pushes their limits to create something new and different. You can listen to any song from the new album and it sounds unorthodox and unlike any other band. There are so many death metal bands today that lack a distinct sound. But you can play me two seconds of Epoch OF Unlight and I will pick it up right away. They have their own style and are very talented. Actually, someone summed it up in one short sentence: "Epoch of Unlight are an avantgarde band; just like your other band, Sculptured, but just more extreme". So, they are perfect for us. Plus I grew up listening to thrash and Epoch of Unlight manage to revive some of that past glory!

CoC: In more than one form, is seems like Nokturnal Mortum is a relatively prolific band cranking out quite a bit of material. Do you think this the case, as well, and can you give us some of the finer details of this consequential group?

AK: I think it more of a matter for us to get caught up with their releases. When we released _Goat Horns_ [their second album], they were actually done with the next one. So in 1998 we put out _Goat Horns_, in 1999 _To the Gates of Blasphemous Fire_, in 2000 _Nechrist_ and very recently their first album _Lunar Poetry_. They haven't recorded a new album for about two years now, as they are busy with their side-projects and Varggoth started his own small label. Next year they will celebrate ten years as a band and Vargotth suggested releasing a box set with cover songs and other unreleased material. Since my communication with the band is sporadic, I don't know of any latest details. But it seems that with every release they keep getting more extreme, both musically and lyrically. They are fully following the primal black metal concepts of staying as controversial and underground as possible.

CoC: What is next for The End? Any new signings? New efforts by stable bands on the label?

AK: We actually have a lot of things going on. We just signed four new bands, each from a different continent. Here are some updates. Agalloch have just released an MCD, _Of Stone, Wind and Pillor_, with five songs, and are now working on their sophomore release. They will enter the studio in September, but don't expect to finish the recordings until maybe December. Soon after that, Sculptured will enter the studio to record their third album, and according to Don [Anderson, vocals and guitars] they will continue their truly unique sound. Scholomance just finished their second album, _The Immortality Murder_. The album is a lot more complex and powerful then the debut and it will take many by surprise. It will actually come as a double CD. The second CD will include five songs in an instrumental form plus seven additional piano interludes! In regards to our new acts, we have signed the following. Green Carnation from Norway, who are in the studio recording their second album, which will be a one song album at 60 minutes. They will include saxophones, church organs, classical music and choirs among other elements. Another new band is Ninth Level from San Diego. Imagine a wide range of death metal, dark progressive rock and experimental jazz, and you may get an idea of what to expect from them. The plan is to enter the studio late in the fall. Sleepless is from Israel and is going to be our least-metal band. Still very dark and artistic, they remind me of a more underground version of Pink Floyd. The album is recorded and will go for printing soon. Virgin Black is from Australia. They create a truly dark but very diverse sound as they can deliver black metal and lounge piano music all in one song. I guess this covers it in a few words. More information is available on our site:

CoC: Finally, will we see you at The End booth at the Milwaukee MetalFest this August?

AK: Tomer and Sergey will take care of The End table and Epoch of Unlight are already scheduled to play. I will actually be there only on Friday, as I am then flying to San Francisco to the Thrash of the Titans. There are too many great bands playing there and I just cannot lose such a great opportunity. But anyone please pass by our table to say hello and we will be able to answer any questions you may have. Thanks for the great support and all the best!


(article submitted 12/8/2001)

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