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Paul Groundwell (Peaceville Records): We get on well as a big family

Paul Groundwell (Peaceville Records): We get on well as a big family
BANDS : Anathema, Autopsy, Darkthrone, Katatonia, My Dying Bride, Opeth, Paradise Lost, Thine

Peaceville Records is a British independent metal-oriented record label, founded by Paul "Hammy" Halmshaw in Dewsbury, England in 1987. Originally a tape label releasing anarcho punk, the releases moved towards metal. When gothic metal began in the early 1990s, the three bands that represented the core of the movement - Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride and Anathema - were signed to Peaceville Records and have since been known as the "Peaceville Three". Autopsy, Darkthrone, My Dying Bride, Anathema, Opeth, Katatonia and Paradise Lost - known as the 'Peaceville Stable' - have been the label's most recognizable traits since the 1990s. In November 2006, after 25 years at the helm, Halmshaw left the label and his former assistant, Paul Groundwell, took over general management duties. (

Paul Groundwell - Peaceville Records mastermind
Metalfan: Hi Paul and welcome to Metalfan.RO! I think that most of our readers aren’t familiar with your work, could you please introduce yourself?
Paul Groundwell: Hi there & thanks for the welcome. Okay, keeping it simple, as label manager I oversee the running of Peaceville Records in conjunction with the fine staff at our London offices & parent label Snapper Music.

Metalfan: Could you tell us more about how you got involved with Peaceville Records, how did it all start?
Paul Groundwell: I had known Hammy & Lisa since around 1994 & lived only a very short walk from their home. My friend & I used to go down to their old offices in Dewsbury too & buy dirt-cheap CDs & vinyl & got to know them quite well. By the end of 2000 they needed somebody to help with a large back-log of demo submissions & so that’s how it started, & the responsibilities grew from there.

Metalfan: When founder Paul "Hammy" Halmshaw and co-manager Lisa Halmshaw retired in 2006, you've stepped up as the main figure of Peaceville Records. How do you feel regarding their decision to retire? What was the main reason for you to continue their work?
Paul Groundwell: I was okay with their decision, & perhaps saw it coming as I was taking on more duties particularly in the final year. Had a lot of respect for Hammy & what he had created, as a metal fan growing up on early Darkthrone/My Dying Bride/Autopsy/GGFH etc, & he was quite perceptive about how the industry was evolving/devolving. Plus, he & Lisa were planning the next part of their future, so it was natural for them to reach that decision I’m sure, after so long building the label up.

And for me personally, again, being a fan originally, there’s no way I WASN’T going to wish to continue the work of such an important & respected label. I like to think a lot of that same spirit has been carried on since their departure too.

Metalfan: Can you tell us more about what you do at Peaceville Records? What does your typical day of work look like?
Paul Groundwell: Many different aspects. A&R, press & promo, product development & coordination/approvals, sales & marketing aspects, website, etc etc. Certainly lots to cover & lots of work in conjunction with the London office too.

Metalfan: Do you have to keep a regular job or running Peaceville Records is your fulltime occupation and source of income? Could you tell us more about how do you see this everyday struggle of metal bands, musicians and other people involved in the scene trying to make ends meet?
Paul Groundwell: Yes, this is certainly a full-time job. There would simply be no way to operate our label as we do, otherwise. In regard to trying to make ends meet for musicians, there really aren’t many at all who can make a living from this, so realistically it is better to not rely on it as a main source of income, & enjoy it for what it brings you creatively first & foremost.
Metalfan: Peaceville Records may not have many bands on the roster but for it has some of the most respected. Do you remember how they got signed?
Paul Groundwell: Yes, & that’s always been the Peaceville way really; to focus more fully on every band we have, rather than spreading our efforts too thinly across 1000. Of course some of our bands have been with us a very long time, but that shows the great relationship we have with them. There is loyalty there & there is no pressure to change them artistically. The first band I had some input in signing was by recommending Katatonia... before I started work here. I was a HUGE fan of Brave Murder Day (1996) & Sounds of Decay EP (1997), so put them onto cassette & gave them to Hammy to check out, as I thought it was right up Peaceville’s street. Then Discouraged Ones (1998) came along, & Hammy became even more sold on getting them on board the Peaceville train. And it became a double-signing of Katatonia & Opeth.

Metalfan: In the past, Peaceville was home to bands like At the Gates, Pentagram (US), Paradise Lost, Agathocles, Opeth or Behemoth, to name just a few. Would you like to work (again) with any of these bands in the near future? Why or why not?
Paul Groundwell: I don’t think we’d have a problem working with any bands if they were bringing some quality & relevant metal to the label. We only ever re-issued Behemoth titles though, so they weren’t actually a signed band with us.

Metalfan: Back in the 90s when the death/doom subgenre outgrew into what we know today as gothic metal, Peaceville Records was right in the middle of it, making history: Anathema, My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost were signed to Peaceville and were known as “The Peaceville Three”. Were you with the label at that time? How do you look back on those days now?
Paul Groundwell: I was not here when that happened, but of course as a listener it was great to experience these pioneering bands (all from up here in the north of England too) They really were pushing ahead with something quite special & unique in those post death-metal-boom times & perhaps pushing each other a bit too at times. Obviously it began with Paradise Lost of the three, then the others really excelled as well. Personally there’s a nostalgic element for releases such as Turn Loose the Swans (1993) [My Dying Bride album ed. note], & Pentecost III (1995) [Anathema EP – ed. note]. A special time to be listening.

Metalfan: If you had to pick only one record released by Peaceville Records, which one would it be and why?
Paul Groundwell: Tough one. There are many classics but i’d probably say Darkthrone’s A Blaze in the Northern Sky (1992) for being a daring, forward thinking, rebellious piece of inspirational cold raw darkness captured on tape. They were young & just had an uncompromising vision & approach which continues to this day. Very much their own entity, & not followers of a scene, which is what I believe Peaceville itself also represents.

Darkthrone - A Blaze In The Northern Sky (1992) - cult classic!

Metalfan: Is there a certain band that you would like to get signed with Peaceville?
Paul Groundwell: There are lots of great bands, & some big names we have had & currently have dealings with, so quite a few we could list, but personally I wanted Mysticum, & that happened. In the Streams of Inferno (1996) is a classic, & so looking forward very much to Planet Satan.

Metalfan: Speaking of bands and contracts, what should a band do in order to get signed by Peaceville? Your roster gives the impression of a "select club"...
Paul Groundwell: It is quite a select club yes. There really has to be some strong defining elements & an originality & Peaceville-compatible attitude to each act.

Metalfan: Some bands like Darkthrone, Katatonia and My Dying Bride have been with the label for a very long time, in fact all My Dying Bride’s albums have been released by Peaceville. What is the secret of this this longstanding relationship?
Paul Groundwell: Treat them well. Give them artistic freedom & respect them, don’t rip them off, don’t be part of an ongoing conveyor belt of bands coming & going. There will always be a few disagreements along the way, but we are loyal to them as they are to us in return. We get on well as a big family I’d say, so it’s nothing really corporate & overly pushy, though if & when we need to give advice or guidance from our own side, we happily do so.

Metalfan: What makes Peaceville different from the other music labels?
Paul Groundwell: Maybe that we don’t overfill our rosters. We are also not trend based, so when something comes along we don’t over-saturate the sub-genre because then it becomes stale in no time, as keeps happening over & over. Our bands seem to last longer & endure, because they are their own entities & not reliant on a scene to thrive.

Metalfan: Wikipedia claims that “Peaceville also became known for its anti-major stance and left wing political outlook.” How do you comment on this statement? Does it still apply today or it is a thing of the past?
Paul Groundwell: I think Hammy possessed some of that attitude coming from a punk background & anti-establishment/corporate stance, but of course some of that inevitably mellowed over the years. The label does stick to its roots in attitude a bit even now though, it must be said. It is ingrained, but a little hypocritical to retain these thoughts fully, with the label having evolved to the stage it is at now. Even though we are fans & lovers of the music, it is still a business & has to be a business run very efficiently in these times.

Sometimes these stances are conjured to portray the rise of the underdog, but all animals are capable of greed when survival is always at the back of one’s mind.

Metalfan: In the past Peaceville Records was known as a great promoter of anarcho punk/hardcore punk bands. Would you like to revitalize this segment of your roster?

Paul Groundwell: Never say never, but I wouldn’t say so at this point. I understand there were punk origins as the bands & label rose up together, but it’s not something we veer towards at all now. Those early acts were very much of their time & were great for it, but now? Two different beasts these days. The message would perhaps not ring as purely.

Metalfan: I was asking you about this subject because for example there are some serious and interesting bands available for labels. For example FLAG IIII, the American band featuring ex-Black Flag members: Keith Morris (lead vocals), Chuck Dukowski (bass), Dez Cadena (guitar) and Bill Stevenson (drums) with Stephen Egerton of The Descendents on guitar. Would you consider signing them? What do you think about their music and Black Flag in general?
Paul Groundwell: Not something I associate with. The bands we had were UK acts talking about issues closer to home, so there was more an understanding & cultural relevance there to the label at the time perhaps. But whilst anarchy remains, it manifests in other ways than these styles now.

Metalfan: If I'm not mistaken it was Fenriz who discovered a few years ago the Swedish band Ghost. What do you think about them and about this whole retro-occult rock thing happening nowadays?
Paul Groundwell: Well this ties in with the trend thing I mentioned earlier. For me one of the main players in the new occult rock uprising was The Devil’s Blood, then it seemed a lot followed (or more that they were all suddenly ‘discovered’). Ghost were/are a little left-field of that but still could be classed in the same group. I liked the demo tracks a lot. Catchy. Nice to see they’ve done so well – clever & accessible music & well written. I like the style of these acts, but it’s all becoming a bit too saturated now, so it seems it will die down & be remembered as a passing trend rather than anything revolutionary, with just a few remaining. Ghost are a genuinely good band, but the wave of hype is a bit too steep that there’s already a revolt against them by some. That’s not the band’s problem though.

Metalfan: Could you tell us a few words about your all-time top five favourite albums?

Paul Groundwell: Don’t really have favourite albums, but more favourite songs, or even just songs I listen to a lot at a particular time to reflect a mood. The most listened to metal album ever for me though is Entombed’s Clandestine (1991). Perfect horror death metal mix of Slayer, Autopsy, Christopher Young & bands like Deathstrike, etc etc. Great atmosphere & sound, & an immensely talented group of guys even at that age.
And whilst I think about it, everyone should please check out Thorns for some black metal from another time & space. Also been going back through some Mercyful Fate & King Diamond lately, which is as classic as ever.

Metalfan: Do you follow football? When we interviewed Fenriz (Darkthrone) he said: "Soccer is metal!". What do you think about the next season from Premier League? Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United retiring, José Mourinho coming back to Chelsea...

Paul Groundwell: Well with Ferguson retiring maybe it’ll give other teams a bit more chance, haha…I am not a big follower though – it’s more a passing interest. To be a fan means more dedication than I put into it that’s for sure.

Metalfan: Thank you for your time and for your answers!
Paul Groundwell: Thanks a lot for the interview.
Autor: Klawz, H.
Vezi galeriile trupelor: Anathema, Darkthrone, Katatonia, My Dying Bride, Opeth, Paradise Lost,

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