Zao guitarist Scott Mellinger recently joined The MetalSucks podcast to discuss the band’s new album, The crimson corridor, a look back at their 2006 classic, Fear is what keeps us here, what it was like working with legendary producer Steve Albini, and more.
At one point, the discussion turned to the difficulties Zao faced in getting reissues of their old albums, especially with material released by Ferret Music (God’s funeral , Fear is what keeps us here , and Awake? ). Mellinger also shared some thoughts on the metalcore scene around this time and how the race to match Killswitch Engage’s success for emerging bands led to deep label debt.
“So unfortunately every record we’ve released belongs to someone and a lot of it belongs to people we can’t even deal with. So luckily when Solid State released Zao’s records, Solid State was bought out by Capitol. Capitol, I think, then handed over part of the ownership to Universal Music Group. But Solid State and Tooth and Nail were able to make a manufacturing deal where we were able to go back and we are so glad it worked that way. But Unoriginal Vinyl and Tooth and Nail work together with us. The three of us work together and they re-released some of those old Zao records, re-releases of vinyl.
“Now Ferret’s stuff, the saddest part is even Carl [Severson], the guy, our close friend who owned Ferret, even he’s in the dark about a lot of this stuff. Ferret was sort of a subsidiary of Sony for a little while, and then Warner bought the rights to the Ferret stuff. Warner doesn’t care. [laughs] I don’t know what it is and I don’t understand it either because it’s not like Zao is something you’re going to make a ton of money with. For me, I would prefer something to come out and everyone to make some money instead of just sitting on records and making them incredibly expensive so that anyone can reasonably put them out.
“But luckily we made a deal with Tragic Hero Records to do a re-release of the vinyl ‘The Funeral of God’. And it ended up being a nightmare, but we did. of fear’ [‘The Fear Is What Keeps Us Here,’ 2008] going out, which is why we recorded this record, was for vinyl. We really hope it will come out.
“But all these different labels, I think a lot of these more underground-looking labels like Ferret or Trustkill, these guys walked into the whole label scene with good intentions and really wanted to help their friends’ bands and do all that good work. And then, weirdly, a lot of that time when we were on Ferret and Trustkill, like all these bands – Killswitch is a good example – [with] all of that stuff to really explode, I think everyone’s got a little over their heads with how this works. So when you have a band that has the potential to sell as many records as a Killswitch or whatever, and before it gets into your major [label], as your underground wants to spend more money to put them in front of more people and blow up these bands, you go into debt. To me it’s no one’s fault and there shouldn’t be any hard feelings but everything happens and the big end up swallowing the little ones because they end up owing a lot of money for everything they have tried to help groups.
“And that’s it too, I think, even with Zao. We complained ‘nobody makes money, blah blah blah’ but the labels put their… with Ferret, I saw how much money Carl was spending to make Zao known to people. I saw how much Carl spent on the In Flames record he released [‘Come Clarity,’ 2006]. The guy really, really tried to break up groups and really work. As a group, I am not held responsible. We haven’t sold as many records as Ferret hoped, but it’s not like they’re going to come back to me like, “You owe me $ 15,000 now.” Yeah, we’re never gonna make any money but they have to swallow that loss. I don’t know, it’s just a nightmare. It’s a nightmare for everyone involved and it sucks and I really wish it was a lot easier. I wish you as an artist had a lot more to say about what happens to your product… but… you just don’t.
You can listen to the full chat with Mellinger here or below.
The Crimson Corridor was released on Friday April 9; order it here and “Theseus Ship” jam below.