Scene Point Blank recently had the chance to speak with John Wylie, owner of Eulogy Recordings and Hand of Hope Records via email. Since 1997, Eulogy, and its affiliates, has put out records at a consistent rate. They are responsible for putting out one of my favorite records ever - Bird of Ill Omen's Self, Dare You Still Breathe - as well as a slew of other hardcore, punk, and indie records. John was extremely down to earth and willing to answer all of my questions no matter how ridiculous or inane they were.
Scene Point Blank: Could you give me the basics about the current the state of Eulogy Recordings (i.e. number of active artists, number of employees, etc.)?
John: We are extremely excited about where Eulogy is at as a label right now. We have roughly 20 active artists between Eulogy and Hand of Hope and a good number of interns any given day.
Scene Point Blank: That is a great amount of growth. I remember walking into your record store in South Florida and there not being that many workers. Congratulations. Do you still operate that record store?
John: That record store closed because I didn't want to deal with the headache at the time. I have a tattoo shop open now in West Palm Beach called Aces High. We also have a record/clothing store in the front carrying tattoo related stuff and various music merchandise. You can visit them here.
Scene Point Blank: What were your reasons for starting the label?
John: I was in a few different touring bands at the time and I was really not happy with the labels we had worked with. I didn't feel that many of the labels I was in contact with really understood what it was like to be in a band. I wanted to provide a place that would be run more along the lines of the way I felt was best to further a band's career. I saw it as a great opportunity for myself to do things the way I wanted to.
Scene Point Blank: What is the most different about the label now from when you first started?
John: Definitely the main difference is the overwhelming amount of work involved in doing what we do. We don't settle for anything. We always work hard to do the best we can. With this comes a huge amount of hard work and dedication from everyone that works here. That is something that we are very proud of.
Scene Point Blank: Have your aims and goals for the label changed much since Eulogy first began?
John: My goal has always been to bring uncompromised music to large amounts of people on our terms. This has never changed. We will always do things the way we feel is right.
Scene Point Blank: Why start Hand of Hope and not just release the records under the Eulogy banner?
John: Hand of Hope was originally started for many different reasons. Chris from Evergreen Terrace was always calling me with bands at the time that he wanted me to sign. We decided to start a label together. It's always easier to keep the businesses separate. Chris moved on to other things and my longtime friend and business partner Ian Rowan now owns part of Hand of Hope with me.
Scene Point Blank: Is there some kind of advantage to doing this?
John: It's always better not to have all your eggs in one basket. It gives us a lot of versatility now and in the future.
Scene Point Blank: How do you differentiate between the two labels in promotions, operations, and such?
John: All employees and the general day to day dealings for both labels are exactly the same. The only difference is that Ian is a partner with Hand of Hope and we have different distributors.
Scene Point Blank: In the insert to Morning Again's The Fallen...the Few that Remain you wrote about how important it was to grow, learn, and participate in the discourse of politics that is even still becoming increasingly absent in the punk and hardcore scene. Do you see the situation as getting better since you wrote that, or is it still getting progressively less?
John: I really feel that the average hardcore kid that goes to shows today isn't really as in touch with the true message of hardcore/punk music as kids once were. I don't mean this to put anyone down. I just think the overall culture of the music we are involved with has changed. It has become more a part of mainstream culture than it was before. I still feel our genre is great at expressing genuine feelings, just not in as much in a political way as it used to be.
Scene Point Blank: Do you think that this has to do with the lack of or declining number political bands and their role in the perpetuation of this discourse or do you think it is just the cyclical aspect of the culture of punk and hardcore?
John: I think it just has to do with the overall culture of the music. As it becomes more mainstream it's going to become more similar to mainstream culture. It becomes less of an avenue for political expression and becomes geared more towards things that the average person would deal with in our pop culture. The average person doesn't really understand much about politics in our country. As our music becomes more a part of the mainstream, there is less demand for us to be discussing politics with this audience because it's not something they deal with day to day. There are both positives and negatives to this so I guess you have to take the good with the bad.
Scene Point Blank: Do you try to run your label with the same standards of your personal beliefs, or do you try to keep them separate?
John: This is the toughest part of being involved with the label. I don't let my personal, political, or religious beliefs come into play when making decisions with the label. I do, however, take into consideration where I stand on the ethics involved within our scene. We try to combine the love of underground music with the realities of running a business. I think we have found a great mid point.
Scene Point Blank: If you do maintain the same standards, is that consistency important to you?
John: It will always be important for us to do things the way we feel is right. As long as we stay true to ourselves and what we love then we will always be successful.
Scene Point Blank: Would you ever drop a band from Eulogy that does something unethical or promotes controversial ideas? For example, the One Life Crew situation for Victory and how they dropped the band in name (even though they continued to sell their records).
John: I would say it's possible that we would drop a band for what they do but it would most likely have to be extremely harsh circumstances. We must remember that the thing that make us great as an outlet for expression is our ability to release generally uncensored art and music. If a band presented themselves as openly racist that would be grounds for us to drop them, for example. Overall I do feel that the beauty of what we do is diversity and allowing people to make their own decisions.
Scene Point Blank: Are there any records that you regret putting out for any reason?
John: There are records i regret putting out for financial reasons but that level of risk always comes with owning a label. I'd rather not say which ones.
Scene Point Blank: In a recent Alternative Press profile, you noted Bird of Ill Omen's Self, Dare You Still Breathe in your Eulogy top 5. Would you still list that here and why?
John: Absolutely, many people don't realize how much that record inspired a lot of the records they listen to today. The level of honesty and aggression that came through on that record totally blew me away. The first time that I saw the band live I had goose bumps. How many bands can you say have done that to you in your life?
Scene Point Blank: Being that that this was your first release, what was the reasoning behind this being your first record?
John: Timing, they were something that I loved at the time I started the label. It just turned out that way.
Scene Point Blank: I must say that this record is one of my favorite records ever. The foul mood that it emotes in the music and vocals is great, and I frequently go back and listen to it when I am feeling shitty. I think that the music gets across its emotional content in ways that many bands never are able to do. It is a severely underrated and under appreciated. Thank you for putting it out. How important was A New Found Glory's album, Nothing Gold Can Stay to Eulogy?
John: It was really more important on a level of helping me grow as a person that it was in helping Eulogy grow. We had only pressed 1500 before we sold it to Drive Thru for a minimal cost. I learned a lot from the whole process and it has helped me progress to where I am today. I love that record and the times I had with that band preparing and releasing the record.
Scene Point Blank: I must say that your version is superior in every sense to the re-release. The artwork was a cool idea on the album that the re-release did not try to duplicate. Would you consider it a turning point for the label?
John: Not at all, we didn't receive much money or attention for it once the record was out of our hands. It all happened in a matter of the record being out for less than two months. Once they had the record we weren't really involved.
Scene Point Blank: Would you consider it a success?
John: It was definitely successful, not really financially but as a learning experience. Things worked out great for all of us in the end. There are things I could have done to make it a better situation for Eulogy and myself at the time but I didn't know much about the business back then. I am very thankful for everything I have now, and I'm happy things worked out the way they did for New Found Glory.
Scene Point Blank: If so, what other records have beaten, matched, or come close to the success of that record?
John: Again, it's hard to compare since we only had that record for 1500 copies. I feel that bands like Unearth, Evergreen Terrace, The Warriors, and now Set Your Goals all have been and are going to be high points for the label in terms of success. To take a band and work hard along side them is a great feeling. I feel our biggest success stories haven't been written yet.
Scene Point Blank: What are the most common criteria that you use to sign bands?
John: The most important things for us is the quality of music, quality and dedication of the people, past touring experience, and their ability to run the band efficiently.
Scene Point Blank: Have you ever signed a band based on a demo submission?
John: Yes, we have signed bands based on demos. Usually there are many lengthy conversations involved before the signing but demos have turned us on to some of the bands we have worked with.
Scene Point Blank: You mentioned how Bird of Ill Omen gave you goose bumps when you saw them. Has any other band that you put out had a similar impact on you when you saw them live?
John: Honestly, not like that. I did have a desire to play music again in a band after I heard the new Set Your Goals CD though. I haven't seen them live yet, but I'm sure that's going to be amazing. They are bringing back something to music that has been missing for a long time. When you hear it you will know what I mean.
Scene Point Blank: What new records do you have coming out? I am sure that you are excited about them all? I know you have the Set Your Goals record on the way. What else has got you psyched?
John: This is the most I have been excited about the label since it started. DKLimb is came out in April and I think that musically that is one of the best records we have put out in recent years. Society's Finest just came out in May and I think it brings back a metal-core sound that has energy a lot of current bands are lacking. Casey Jones is going to surprise a lot of people. That is out in June. The new Warriors and Set Your Goals records are going to take Eulogy to a new level. After that we have some great new bands: Know the Score, The Drama Summer, On a Warpath and more to be announced soon. Those along with bands like Hoods, Calico System, Evergreen Terrace, Shattered Realm, Donnybrook, and Black My Heart are making this year at Eulogy more exciting than ever.
Scene Point Blank: What are your goals for the label this year?
John: Continue to grow! We are one of the sponsors this year on Sounds of the Underground which I feel is one of the best tours out there now period. We will have a merch booth at each show selling our stuff and giving away samplers with all the new stuff for people to hear.
Scene Point Blank: Do you have anything up your sleeve to surprise us all?
John: We are always working on things. We have a few things in the works so we'll see what happens. I think Set Your Goals is going to surprise everyone and blow up this year.
Scene Point Blank: Are there any artists that you would love to work with that you have not?
John: All of these would be ones that are out of reach for us at this point: The Cure, Slayer, etc... I'm very happy with everything that has happened so far and I think this is only the beginning of a long list of great things we are going to accomplish as a label with our bands now and in the future. I would like to say that this label is about myself and the bands of course, but it doesn't end there. Without the great people that I have working with me everyday at Eulogy and Hand of Hope, none of these things would be possible. They are the ones that help me make everything happen.
Scene Point Blank: Thanks again for all the time that you have given me and good luck with all of your future endeavors.
Images courtesy of Eulogy Recordings
- Scene Point Blank's review of Where Fear and Weapons Meet's Control
- Scene Point Blank's review of The Warriors' War is Hell
- Scene Point Blank's review of Donnybrook's Lions in this Game
- Scene Point Blank's review of Hoods' The King is Dead
- Scene Point Blank's review of Unearth's Our Days of Eulogy
- Scene Point Blank's review of Set Your Goals' Reset
- Eulogy Recordings Official Website
- Hand of Hope Records Official Website