Heavy Chains Is Your New Favorite Tasmanian Metal Tape Label
Will Spectre knows his shit when it comes to quality metal and thrash. Operating out of a bedroom in Hobart, Tasmania, Spectre runs Heavy Chains, a mail-order and label that has released over 36 albums and tapes from local and international acts.
From Ironhawk’s Motörhead-style speed crust and Crypt Vapor’s John Carpenter-inspired soundtrack music to the sleazy street metal of New York City’s Chain and Outcast’s early '80s Swedish attack, it seems Spectre has it covered as far as dark and dangerous rock 'n' roll goes.
Inspired by labels such as Buried by Time and Dust and Iron Bonehead Productions, Spectre has an ear and eye for detail and quality. He also plays in Dracula and Tarot, and designed the artwork for their tapes.
One of the great things about Heavy Chains is that, when it comes to releasing tapes, Spectre trusts his gut and own taste and is not perturbed by current trends or fashions. One of the more interesting acts on the roster is Ice War, a one-man metal machine from Ottawa. Jo Capitalicide plays raw and passionate metal, and has been known to cover obscure '70s band Crystal Pride.
As Spectre says, “I don’t really care what other people listen to. If they like some metal stuff, great; if not, no skin off my nose! I think there will always be — and always have been — real metal fans who aren’t interested in fashion or what’s cool or [the] flavor of the month, and at the end of the day, these are the people who actually buy physical releases.”
For a small island state, Tasmania has long punched above its weight musically. What about with metal?
There have been quite a few death metal and black metal bands from Tasmania over the years, but not much in the way of straight-up heavy metal — especially bands playing the kind of stuff I’m interested in.
Explain to the world what a scallop pie is.
A scallop pie is the curried seafood version of a rat coffin [meat pie], which is considered a delicacy around these parts for some reason. I haven’t eaten one for about 20 years, so I don’t remember what they taste like.
You’ve released everything from Venom-type black metal to doom, thrash and Carpenter-esque soundtrack music. Do you have a favorite style? Do you listen to the same metal now that you did when you were a teenager?
The music released on Heavy Chains is definitely a reflection of my taste, and I listen to lots of different styles of metal and music in general. I guess my favorite music would be killer heavy metal, the kind of stuff that takes its cues from what was being recorded from the late 1970s to the early / mid-1980s, or stuff that was released around that period. Of course, I still love the stuff when I was listening to as a teenager; you can’t get over stuff like Black Sabbath, old Metallica, Hawkwind, etc.
The label’s first release was your own band Dracula’s Open Graves at Midnight. You sold out of both pressings of that tape before having played a gig. What's the latest with Dracula?
We have issued Open Graves at Midnight three times so far, and the first version sold out before we had played a show. Dracula has been on hold for around a year now since Count Hawlok has been living in Sweden during this time. Our last action was playing at Black Conjuration Fest in Adelaide last year. However, you cannot kill the dead, and we will record more evil heavy metal some day.
You also play in Tarot. What else have you got going on musically at the moment?
Lately, I’ve been rehearsing with Tarot a lot, as well as writing new stuff for The Wizar’d; I have four new songs ready to record for a new EP, which will happen someday soon. Hopefully, anyway — I‘ve been planning new Wizar‘d stuff for around three years now. I am also playing drums in a raging speed metal band with Dan [Salsten] from Deathhammer called Torpedo; we released a demo earlier this year, and are about to record some more songs for a new cassette release.
You delve into the more esoteric styles of metal. From Orb to Ice War, your taste is great. Are bands approaching you about releases?
I get a lot of submissions from bands — too many to listen to all of them, to be honest, although I do try. As a general rule, I skip bands that have put together a standard email that they send to 50 labels at once. I prefer a more personal approach, preferably something physical. For example, Starlight sent me a demo cassette in the mail, which I thought was a cool touch, and it was even better when I put it on over a few beers and was blown away! So, I have released stuff that has been directly submitted by bands, but most of the time it’s something I’ve stumbled across myself, or have been recommended by a friend.
You have released bands from Sweden, Finland, Norway, Australia, Chile, the U.S. and Canada, Metal truly is international. Where else do you look for good metal?
I don’t really look for bands from any specific location. I just try to put stuff out that I think is good, and there is good shit everywhere!
Tapes are cool. A stack of assorted tapes on a shelf looks great. Besides the look, what do you like about tapes?
They suit shorter releases a lot better than CDs, and they are a lot of fun to design layouts for. They are also very practical when it comes to Australia’s outrageous shipping costs. I can ship three tapes as a large letter, which helps a lot!
Hobart hosts the Dark Mofo each year, which is this kind of arty take on gothic dark arts. Heavy Chains has been involved in the fest before. What's your take on it?
We haven’t really been involved in the fest, beyond two or three bands associated with the label playing at one of the events that was sponsored by the festival a couple of years ago. I think that it’s a good thing for Hobart to have a festival like this, and the potential for some interesting stuff to be put on is there; however, most of the stuff they put on isn’t great, and the choices of bands — especially for metal — is often very confusing. I always get the impression they want to appear to be knowledgeable about obscure or underground music, but they are only going to seem that way to people who don’t actually listen to it. Also, their summer festival this year includes the current band from the guy from Tool and Mike Patton’s latest musical fart — make of that what you will.
Some of the more interesting releases on the label have been the Carpenter-type electro-soundtrack stuff, like Crypt Vapor.
There has been quite a bit of interest in Crypt Vapor. I guess a lot of people into metal are also into '70s and '80s horror movies and their soundtracks, which is the sound that Crypt Vapor is going for. There have also been some great vinyl versions of the EPs released by U.S. label Death Shadow Records. They come highly recommended if you enjoy the band!