Michael Berberian (Season of Mist)

Michael Berberian (Season of Mist)

by Niklas Göransson

Michael Berberian is the founder and manager of French metal label Season of Mist – he looks back on twenty-five years of upholding reason and order amongst the artistry of chaos.

Photo: Ester Segarra


– I want to be the label that releases anything from the nastiest music known to mankind – REVENGE, for example – to the artiest, most avantgarde stuff in our musical world. I’m an art snob, which is a trait I’d like to think can be clearly sensed in the label seeing as it has a real artsy style. I’ll never do princess metal, we touched neither nu-metal nor deathcore, and we’ve always tried to remain trend-free. We try to become as big of a company as possible, while still remaining on our two feet: authentic, innovative, and extreme.

In 1992, well before finding his calling as a label manager, Michael was hired as a concert promoter and music writer for a French company called Decibel Storm. In this capacity, he contributed articles to their publication and organised shows with the likes of SAMAEL, CARCASS, MORBID ANGEL, DEICIDE, IMMORTAL, and CRADLE OF FILTH.

– Back then, the underground was a marvellous and blooming cesspool of creativity. I was really into tape trading and had an entrepreneurial mindset; I guess I was a bit ambitious so, after a while, I had the feeling I could do more. I was number two in the Decibel Storm hierarchy – I didn’t want to push my boss aside, since he was literally the one who scouted me, so I had to go do my own thing. Decibel Storm focused on concert promotion and their fanzine, so I started a label.

Season of Mist was founded in 1995, with Michael’s student dorm room in Marseille as base of operations. His first release was “Worlds and Worlds” by OXIPLEGATZ, a strange creation by former AT THE GATES guitarist Alf Svensson. I noticed the CD does not appear to have been re-pressed since its 1996 release, leading me to believe that it didn’t exactly explode financially.

– It actually did okay! Mid-90s sales were pretty good in general. CD-ROM was barely a thing, no internet, you could trade with everyone; it was easy back in those days. I was drawn to OXIPLEGATZ because it was so totally ’out there’… I mean, extreme metal space opera? When I contacted Alf, he was planning to self-release the album and so had the layout and everything ready – with the logo of his own label, Fairytale. We worked with film rolls for printing covers and booklets back then and we used his files, which is why SoM-001 doesn’t exist. I guess this shaped the future of Season of Mist to some extent, as my motto of ’Sundance, not Hollywood’ applied from the very first release. So, yeah, OXIPLEGATZ was a good band to start off with. Super out there, completely unheard of. Loved it.

Before revisiting OXIPLEGATZ with their 1998 follow-up “Sidereal Journey”, Season of Mist released albums with Norwegian bands such as BETHZAIDA, KAMPFAR, and BLOODTHORN as well as French acts ANOREXIA NERVOSA and SETH. During these years, the label was still a modest outfit handled on the side of Michael’s university studies.

– I was running both simultaneously, my economic studies – so that I, one day, could get a real job – alongside my very time-consuming hobby. It wasn’t until 1999 it became apparent that I should incorporate and give this a shot for real; even though I stayed in university for another two years after that, trying to home-school myself into an economical study thesis I never finished. Still got my master’s degree though.

1993 – Arnaud (Decibel Storm), Vorphalack (Samael), Michael Berberian


In 1999, Michael decided to – quite literally – go all in on one concerted effort at clawing his way out of the underground. Part of this was hiring Sabiene Goudriaan, who still to this day is number two in the company. Their first high-profile signing was the then-recently reformed US death metal band NOCTURNUS, whose third album, “Ethereal Tomb”, was released by Season of Mist in October of that year. I can’t help but wonder whether Michael asked to hear a demo or an advance tape before shelling out money for this. In fact, the very same question will be recurring a few times throughout our conversation.

– Nope, I didn’t. And yes, I should have… and, no! Obviously, I didn’t learn from this mistake, if that’s what you’re implying. In all fairness though, the album wasn’t all that bad. They were a name and had been on Earache – it was the first ’status’ band we ever signed. I’d decided to go pro, so I needed to firmly establish our name. I had to put us on the map, otherwise the competition would’ve eaten us alive. We were tiny compared to Osmose, Adipocere, Avantgarde, Misanthropy, and a number of other labels that no longer exist. I had to get higher-profile signings.

One evening around the millennium shift, the vocalist of French black metal band SETH was at the famous Elm Street pub in Oslo, Norway, when he spotted members of MAYHEM. Knowing they were Michael‘s favourite black metal band, he rang him up and then handed the phone to Necrobutcher. Aware they were recording an album, as well as being courted by several bigger labels, Michael briefly introduced himself and then launched into a passionate tirade with such conviction he managed to make an impression on the initially rather surprised bass player. Necrobutcher instantly agreed to fly over to Marseille shortly thereafter. Sensing it was now or never, Michael went out hard – offering a bucketload of money he didn’t have, figuring he’d worry about finances once the contract had been signed.

– My university studies had mainly been in theoretical economy and history, very hypothetical and not really about stock markets and such – but I understood enough to realise that risk is key. Innovation and risk. So, I was ready to put my life on the line to take that bet. And this is precisely what I did; sold everything I owned, moved back to my parents, and made several wholesale deals where labels were offered a cheaper price for the upcoming MAYHEM record if they paid me in advance. I’d promised money I didn’t have and managed to get it without anyone being the wiser. But I took a massive risk, I went all in, and the river card was the ace I needed.

In early 2000, Michael flew to Gothenburg to meet up with MAYHEM for a cash handout in exchange for the master tape all his hopes and dreams were invested in. Not even having heard a demo of the material beforehand, this would’ve been a nervous first listen. I recently spoke to Hervé Herbaut of Osmose Productions and he recalled, with some trauma,  his debut listens to albums such as MYSTIFIER‘s “The World Is So Good That Who Made It Doesn’t Live Here” and “Slagry” by MASTER’S HAMMER – imagine if it’d been something like that.

– I had no idea! They gave me an over-the-phone description, but it was far from accurate. Hellhammer played it to me on his Discman; they were all looking for my reaction, thinking I’d be shocked at that famous techno part and the second half of the album. But I loved it, for precisely the same reason as OXIPLEGATZ. So, my first impression of “Grand Declaration of War” was a very, very, pleasant surprise. Needless to say, I’ve since had my fair share of listening experiences whilst shaking my head and face-palming. And some really expensive ones at that. I know all about damage control by now – you know a storm is coming, that shit just hit the fan. You brace yourself and keep marching on, trying to at least limit the damage.

To Michael’s profound relief, following its April 2000 release, the album became a commercial success. It was rather polarising amongst the older fanbase though, many long-time MAYHEM fans felt betrayed with the follow-up to the iconic “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas”. I read that Season of Mist were even sent death threats.

– Haha! Yeah, we received plenty, from the infamous Black Legions! It was funny, they once rang me around midnight, thinking I’d be scared, but I just put them on speaker phone. Suddenly, there are ten people insulting them because we were having a LAN party… and yes, I plead guilty to early geekiness. I was also a regular at a local pub called The Black Hole, where the metalheads, punks, and skinheads – basically the rock’n’roll people of Marseille – would hang out. It was a zone for alternative people in a city that had NO place for us. Anyway, all my threatening letters were framed there on the board for people to laugh at. I never took any of this even remotely seriously. I even had a fight with a few of those Black Legions, but they were just harmless skinny kids. I also had beef with some skinheads later on, on the infamous BEHEMOTH and DESTRÖYER 666 tour; that was a bit rougher.


On the first day of the new millennium came “Phoenix Rising”, the second album of Australia’s DESTRÖYER 666. Since then, Season of Mist has had the pleasure of facilitating the band’s latest two decades of defiance and antagonism.

– I LOVE that record, probably their best songs are on this album. I got the pre-production demo and listened to it for a week straight. Strangely enough, I was the only one in the office freaking out back then, it took the others a while to catch on. As for KK, we go back twenty years now – and, believe it or not, I like him. I guess it’s even reciprocal. Yes, he’s the rudest person I know; very good at antagonising people, super-abrasive, paranoid, etcetera. By now, he’s insulted pretty much everyone in my staff. But I guess Sabiene and I go way beyond that with him, and for different reasons he listens to and respect us.

In 2016, DESTRÖYER 666 found themselves unwilling participants to one of the strangest episodes of internet drama in extreme metal history; chronicled and thoroughly dissected here. The matter was eventually resolved after KK Warslut made the ringleaders issue a public apology and retract their slanderous articles. However, certain parties were firmly unenthused by how the frontman had gone about things in his diplomatic efforts and requested a statement from Season of Mist, demanding to know whether such brutish behaviour really was acceptable. Michael responded with, ‘I can’t comment as SoM – as my views are not the one of the company. However, on a personal level: here is my comment’, followed by a link to BODY COUNT’s “Talk Shit, Get Shot”.

– You mean my good friends at MetalSucks? Yeah, they targeted me for a while after this infamous DESTRÖYER 666 debacle of theirs. To make a long story short, we didn’t come to their defence when KK was mean to them and my ’talk shit, get shot’ response wasn’t appreciated. So, suddenly, we’re white supremacists, sexists, and so forth. It became too much, I was furious. However, one day, we got an anonymous phone call… well, not very anonymous but, yeah; protect your sources. Anyway, we were given serious dirt about a certain #metoo behaviour of one of those white knights of woke at MetalSucks. I mean, truly deplorable stuff. Nothing illegal, admittedly, but something after which no man with pride should ever be able to face himself in the mirror. Once I got confirmation, I told everyone and their mother about it, and made sure they knew it was coming from me. I also lobbied to every other label to stop giving them ad money.

Any success?

– Some refused and kept working with them, but others completely agreed. Nuclear Blast North America, for example, was one of the first to join us. All this is water under the bridge now though. Actually, I kinda regret doing it; this was their personal shit and it hurt a woman who’d done nothing… plus, I’m no angel myself. Also, had it been the opposite way around, I’d feel absolutely horrible knowing that someone in my close surroundings had called them to give up compromising secrets about me. I’d feel betrayed, stabbed in the back. They were. I guess this particular close friend also thought they needed to be put down. Anyway – I wouldn’t ever have done it if they hadn’t attacked not only me personally but also my label. I’m more a ’let’s talk and, if necessary, throw punches’ kind-of-guy. But, honestly, I should’ve just let it go. I mean, the whole thing is already collapsing on its own. You can’t work in a scene you neither understand nor respect. Voices like Kim Kelly, they’ve all left our musical world by now. Being a political activist at Teen Vogue, praising socialism and fighting patriarchy… all the while, she used to get a pay-check from Al Jazeera! Oh, the irony. The Church of Woke has become such a parody.

If one examines many of the primary purveyors of creative guilt-by-association logic, it’s hard not to note the plethora of confusing discrepancies. Looking at Michael’s example, one notes that it’s apparently perfectly alright to spearhead feminism and worker’s rights in the US whilst simultaneously taking oil dollars from the Gulf state of Qatar, the owner of Al Jazeera. Qatar routinely imprisons both rape victims and sexual minorities and has been criticised by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for operating literal migrant slave-labour death camps. This topic was explored to a far greater extent in the 2019 conversation with Finnish black metal band HORNA, following persistent but ultimately unsuccessful attempts to cancel their US tour.

– Only a few cities still believe in it and are causing problems – Portland, San Francisco, and Munich. In most other cities, when woke keyboard warriors using antifa logos write and try to cancel a show with band X or Y, people no longer care. Such emails end up in the bin, and that’s it. You know how everything excessive becomes insignificant? They went too far. The woke culture, I believe, is already imploding. Oh, and by the way – I studied economics. I read Marx, thousands of pages. I majored in the history of economic theory and so studied it for several years. I read Huttington, I read Fukuyama, Keynes, Ricardo; I actually have the right credentials to work in this field. I used to post a bit about economics and geopolitics, but I stopped. I deleted those posts. I believe that medicine and economy are the fields where people have the least knowledge, leading them to get taught bullshit by YouTube channels. The results? Anti-vaccine and post-modern Marxism.

Hervé Herbaut (Osmose), Hellhammer (Mayhem), Michael Berberian


Returning to the Season of Mist timeline, the relative success of “Grand Declaration of War” did not necessarily entail financial security – rather an extended survival on the barest minimum.

– I decided to rent a space for our stock. We had no choice – with the MAYHEM and NOCTURNUS releases, things were getting serious. The stockroom had a toilet and a sink, that was it. And on the back of our small combined warehouse and office, behind a shelf, was… my bed! My dad’s apartment was on the fourth floor of the same building, so I had access to showers, meals, and a washing machine. This was my home for… I guess, three or four years? I couldn’t afford rent for both myself and the company. I even lived there with Sabiene for a while; it wasn’t glamorous, that’s for sure.

It would take Michael several years before he could afford to sign more prolific bands again. However, in 2003 Season of Mist acquired GORGUTS and MACABRE for Europe and CARPATHIAN FOREST worldwide. The latter released “Defending the Throne of Evil” the same year – it would’ve been the time following this release that frontman Nattefrost had his most eccentric years.

– Oh yes, complete and utter chaos. They were still great live and there was every kind of excess all around. It went downhill later on but the first couple of years with those guys were great and, I believe, the best era for that band.

ROTTING CHRIST joined the Season of Mist roster in 2007. If I recall correctly, interest levels for the Greek veterans were perhaps not peaking around then.

ROTTING CHRIST was a band in the hole, they were doing quite poorly. Century Media, I think, did not do a good job with them. They needed a breath of fresh air and “Theogonia” was their rebirth. And, ever since then, no band on SoM has worked harder – none! They toured, and they toured, and they toured. And when they weren’t on tour, they were releasing albums. They found their formula. The result? Ten years ago, a ROTTING CHRIST show consisted of old people who only wanted to hear “The Sign of Evil Existence” and didn’t care about the new songs. ROTTING CHRIST today: new songs live are the most successful. They were our second most streamed band on Spotify last year; more than ABBATH, more than MAYHEM, more than WATAIN, more than SÓLSTAFIR. We talked about “Phoenix Rising” earlier but if we do have a phoenix at SoM, his name is Sakis Tolis.

Browsing the label’s back catalogue, I was reminded that they released PEST’s 2008 album “Rest in Morbid Darkness”. I find this record to be insanely underrated; “Vomit up the Blood of Jesus”, what a fucking song.

– I know! There is NO rational explanation for this. And, honestly, I can name a few other absolute jewels in our catalogue that never found their audience. A LIFE ONCE LOST “Ecstatic Trance”, KHONSU, KILL THE THRILL, THE LION’S DAUGHTER, and so on. I want to keep faith in NUMENOREAN’s “Adore” though, I LOVE that release; we’re still trying to build it up

Have you ever made a gamble with similar stakes since the MAYHEM episode?

– Building a US office in 2003 already. My dad told me, ‘You can’t be an international label if you’re not in the world’s biggest market.’ So, yeah, super-small four-person company in France incorporating their US office before being ’anything’ in Europe, or even France. Made no sense whatsoever. I lost money in the US for nine years straight before ever making a single dime. All our profits from Europe were swallowed by the vast North American black hole… so, yeah, that was certainly a big risk. But I have no regrets and the Philadelphia office works great now, it’s a fully staffed label of around ten people. We’re entirely capable of building typical US market bands like ARCHSPIRE and BEYOND CREATION as good as any other American label – we also sign bands specifically for that market. So, yeah, it worked out in the end. DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN in 2009 was another huge bet; took a very long time to see any profit and we only got them for one album… but, again, zero regrets. They were a huge signing for us, and I was tired of being perceived only as a black metal label. Then MORBID ANGEL later the same year, which was an industrial-scale accident, pun intended. Lost my shirt on this one. Yeah, yeah – I know, ’Didn’t you listen to the demo?’… no, clearly, I had learned nothing. Fool me twice.

Michael with Morbid Angel’s manager, Gunter Ford of World Management, signing the contract for “Illud Divinum Insanus”


If one was to get a bit conspiratorial, it could be noted how both MAYHEM and MORBID ANGEL deviated into electronica and started rapping after signing to Season of Mist. I am, of course, referring to “Illud Divinum Insanus”, the 2011 train-wreck of a David Vincent comeback album. We already know there was no prior listening, but I’m wondering if Michael was at all aware that they were going to, let’s say, try something different – or if it came as a delightful surprise along with the master tape.

– No, I most certainly wasn’t. And chemtrail conspiracies or whatnot, I had nothing to do with it. Coincidence? The fact that we’re known to praise bands taking risks? I don’t know.

I read that peculiar 2017 Guitar World interview with Trey Azagthoth, in which he appears to claim having been unaware himself.

– How? He wrote most of it! The other guys weren’t supposed to contribute any music, he was meant to write everything. Don’t even get me started on this, it’s not good for my tension.

I’ve spoken to several artists about what it feels like when their new record is almost universally scorned by the fanbase, but I don’t think I’ve discussed the matter with a label manager.

– I quickly learned not to read forums, so I was kinda insulated against this. At least on my personal Facebook page, people are ‘friends’ and there’s no anonymity, so they don’t speak out that easily. But forums, oh my god, they were out of control; much like YouTube comments can be nowadays. Also, other labels were constantly cracking jokes about our ’wall of shame’ – we had an entire wall, going on twenty meters (65ft), of unsold copies of that infamous MORBID ANGEL box-set. Well, we got rid of them all in the end, so the wall no longer exists, but it took seven years and below cost. Live and learn.

In the year 2015, Season of Mist retained ABBATH. I read that Michael signed the eponymous frontman in the midst of early-morning carousing at some seedy establishment in Bergen – which begs the question if he often goes out drinking with pre-drafted contracts in his pocket, hoping to prey upon drunken artists.

– Haha! No, not exactly. I was at an after-party when they called me at, like, 5:00am. I arrived to a hotel hallway and saw a table with Tom and Olve – or, King ov Hell and Abbath – both drunk as skunks. They had only vowels left in their vocabularies at that point, consonants were long gone. It sounded like ‘AAAOOOUUUUU… IIII AAAAAA’. The only thing I got out of our meeting was that they wanted to sign and work with me. They were arguing about what to call their band; it was the continuation of I, and Olve had left IMMORTAL by then. Tom wanted to either call it ABBATH or do a new version of I, Olve wanted neither. This was resolved by bringing rationality to the table, my speciality. Question: ’If Lemmy was leaving MOTÖRHEAD for some reason, what would his next band be called?’ Immediate answer from Olve: ’LEMMY KILMISTER, of course!’ Realising what he’d just said, the name was chosen right then and there, and the band was born. So, no, there were no paper towel contracts signed that day but a handshake between gentlemen, just very drunk ones. I came back to Bergen with the proper paperwork a few weeks later. Olve has a good heart, he’s one of the good guys. Truly genuine, would die for his friends. Yes, he has his demons and I really hope he’s gonna be okay.

Nergal (Behemoth) and Michael Berberian


The same year Season of Mist signed ABBATH – in a move which caused quite a bit of surprise all over the place – Canadian powerhouse REVENGE were added to the roster.

J Read wanted to do it – partly because he knew I’d be up for it, and also since he knew it would piss off the NWN! forum keyboard warrior kids to no end. Look, just because I sign arty shit like THY CATAFALQUE, ÁRSTÍÐIR, and HEILUNG doesn’t mean I don’t get REVENGE. I’ll quote someone from our US office: ’In black metal, if bands like TSJUDER, 1349, and MARDUK are sharp as a blade, REVENGE feels like a bunch of Neanderthals clubbing you to death.’ Accurate description. I love working with them, and I love the fact that it pissed off the ’true kvlt’ kids. We work great together, they’re doing well, and I just received their new album and can tell you they lost none of their ferocity… but, most importantly, and as savage as they are, a J Read band comes rehearsed. Controlled. He’s proud not to be a bunch of, and I quote, ’coked-up fuck-ups’ like the other bands from that genre. He also wanted a label with its shit together and I hope we represent that. Extreme, still underground, but as pro as a label can be.

But why would a band with its shit together ever need a label? BÖLZER have recently gone the MGŁA route and started their own record company, Lightning & Sons. For the 2016 debut album, “Hero”, they ignored offers from bigger labels and instead signed with a smaller outfit in Iron Bonehead – another popular strategy as of late.

– Oh, this is a loooooong conversation… I believe BÖLZER did great, but with the backing of a label they could’ve been bigger by now. Same with MGŁA, they’ve done even better – but even the cleverest artist cannot learn overnight how to become a decent booking agent, publisher, and how to sort out the ins and outs of international distribution. I was in MGŁA’s backstage once and they asked me questions about things like mechanical royalties and performance rights, which I was happy to answer, of course. But a band that big? Come on. Okay, you get one hundred percent of the profit, sure. But is your band as big as it could’ve been? I don’t think so. Do you maximise your sales and exposure? No. Great band though. Look, there are people out there capable of building a house entirely from scratch. When I bought and rebuilt my current home, I was happy to have painters, bricklayers, roofers, and dozens of other specialists who were all better than me at what they do. So, unless you know how to build a house from scratch, don’t. Surround yourself with professionals who can help you build your artistic vision; because, despite what you may think, we don’t ever interfere in terms of the actual art. Never. There is but one window of opportunity and not every band gets it – if you do but don’t take it, you’re screwed.

Any signings you’re especially proud of – such as bands that were obscure at the time but would go on to greatness?

GHOST BRIGADE is a good example, HEILUNG is another. I mean, I also believe we were a big part in the development of WATAIN and SÓLSTAFIR, bringing them to new heights. But there are a lot more collegial decisions nowadays, we’re a team now; how we work is that the ’best stuff’ gets sent first to me and then to a listening team. A few signings are all mine though. HEILUNG, for example, was one hundred percent mine. I believed in them from day one. As for pure pride, I signed my favourite black metal band, MAYHEM, and had them for twenty years. And my favourite death metal band, MORBID ANGEL – even if that didn’t turn out so well. My favourite prog band, CYNIC. I love that band, even if it’s been a bumpy ride. And one of my fave goth bands, CHRISTIAN DEATH. Really, only FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM are missing and then I can retire!

Anything you curse yourself for overlooking?

– I’ve made mistakes, of course, and missed a few opportunities – things I didn’t see coming or dismissed at the time. I had the chance to sign GOJIRA but said no. I didn’t anticipate the rise of festivals; I was offered to take part but declined. Regardless, what’s important is that still to this day, I try to take risks and be innovative in our industry. For example, we developed our own database and royalty system which is tailormade for our needs. We could probably even sell it to other labels that today use the bad commercial solutions available on the market. Again, a small company developing a whole system? Makes no sense. Paid off. My latest thing was print-on-demand band merch.

These days, labels are losing an increasingly bigger chunk of their merch revenue to rogue sellers using direct-to-garment printing technology. A bootlegger with the requisite printer and the knowledge how to operate it can essentially re-create any old cult design, put it on sale in every conceivable size and shirt model, and then print the item only when an order comes in. After filing numerous copyright claims against precisely such vendors, Michael grew curious and ordered a sample – ending up rather impressed with the quality. After researching and contemplating the matter, he decided to give it a try and so invested in equipment, software, and training. The project was completed and launched in December 2018. Besides Season of Mist’s entire back catalogue of merch, Michael has also been collaborating with artists from other labels in making their old and out of print merch available again.

– We’ve also had years when we were losing SO much money. I mean, whereas most companies try to minimise profit to avoid paying taxes, we maximised ours so we wouldn’t have to declare bankruptcy… relying on the shady odds that next year would be better. And this wasn’t all that long ago! Less than ten years. It was the right choice, I’d say. Today, I see us – a small label started in Marseille, of all places, a rock and roll cultural wasteland – winning ‘label of the year’ for 2019 at Metal Injection in the US and Zero Tolerance in Europe. Of course, it does something! I imagine this is what our artist feels when they walk on stage in front of a big crowd.

Michael with Robert Kampf and Brian Slagel – founders of Century Media and Metal Blade, respectively


In the 90s, France had several strong extreme metal labels such as Adipocere, Holy Records, and Osmose Productions. However, none of them really broke through, commercially, especially not in comparison to their German competition. I watched a 2009 video interview with Michael by Imhotep’s Paul Thomas Kearns, in which he mentioned that the recent hiring of a few Germans – one of them being Gunnar Sauermann from Metal Hammer – brought some semblance of order to the French chaos.

Gunnar was also too rigid and not prone to change, so it’s a fine balance, you know? Still love the guy, he worked for me for ten years, still a friend. As for the French labels in comparison to the German, I think it had more to with the personality of those involved. That, and luck, probably. We come from a shithole far from everything, and yet it worked out okay… so, it’s doable. The real geographical impact for me is that people in France work fewer hours and have way more holidays, and taxes are higher than the rest of Europe. You have terrible employees who demotivate everyone else? Can’t fire them. Add to that shipping costs, which are more expensive using the French postal service compared to Deutsche Post. If you’re in Italy and want to order a CD from Germany – which is far – or from me, who lives next door, it’s cheaper from Germany! Not to mention, Norway has permafrost… France? We have permastrikes. So, yeah, it wasn’t easy. This is part of the reasons why I’m now an expat and a resident of the Netherlands.

Hervé from the aforementioned Osmose Productions recalled the sudden demise of ARKHON INFAUSTUS as particularly devastating. I’d like to know whether Michael has any similar experiences – bands he’d invested a lot of time, effort, and funds into building up, only to have them implode at the cusp of success.

– Well, INQUISITION… but, yeah, nothing to be done there. Not really comparable.

I remember watching an interview with UFC president Dana White who said that he, when getting up in the morning, has but one certainty for the coming day – with hundreds of professional fighters under contract, bad shit of some kind will happen. I’m thinking that Michael might be able to relate.

– Someone from our US office once gave me a nickname: The Retard Whisperer. Throughout the years, I’ve amassed around myself a large collection of defective, dysfunctional human beings – otherwise known as artists… so, yeah, every day is a new day. Having had bands like MAYHEM, ABBATH, SHINING, WATAIN, CARPATHIAN FOREST, DESTRÖYER 666 on the roster, the anecdotes are plenty – a lot of them eighteen-plus and make for great bar conversations. Every single day, I receive questions that are so far out… the latest one was less than an hour ago. You sigh, take a second to collect your thoughts, and try to explain how things work. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve come to realise that my job is delivering a dose of rationality to people who themselves are thus devoid. That’s okay, I’m a man of no artistic talent whatsoever; they lend me their musical gifts and I try to be the voice of reason. That’s our trade-off, I guess.