Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Metal Advisor Interviews Cory von Bohlen of Halo of Flies/Protestant

Since 2006 (or 2007, depending on how you look at it), Cory von Bohlen has been delivering heavy records to the masses with his punk/hardcore/metal-focused label, Halo of Flies. Going back even farther reveals his own band, Protestant, which has been in continuous operation since 2004. It's safe to say Cory has a lot on his plate at all times.

Cory appreciates the DIY aspect of music immensely. Both Protestant and Halo of Flies are the products of years of hard work, dedication, and experimentation, showing a passion few others can hope to match. He's had his fair share of hiccups along the way, of course, but he views those as an opportunity to learn and improve his approach to making and releasing new music.

Since discovering Protestant a few months back, I've admired Cory and what he does, and I couldn't think of better reason to ask him for an interview. He graciously obliged, so let's see what he has to say.


You've had your band, Protestant, since 2004 and your label, Halo of Flies, since 2006. Was Halo of Flies initially nothing more than a place to release your own music? 

Cory: Not exactly. I was planning to help with a Rhino Charge (R.I.P.) LP, whom Protestant was on tour with when these label ideas were being tossed about. But, yeah, it was a good excuse to start--I'll give you that.

Note: the first release didn't come out until February 2007...

You've certainly come a long way since 2006--Halo of Flies has a massive distro, and it seems like new releases are coming out every day. How do you manage to stay so popular? 

Cory: Well, thanks! I've been pretty lucky. The distro is there due to constant trading with other labels I've grown to know over the years. Funny, though: so many labels I used to trade with are gone or have moved on to "greener pastures," only to be replaced by others (for the most part).

As for releases, I'm at my limit pretty much all the time and have come to the point where I'm now booked eight to twelve months ahead. Let's hope nothing amazing falls into my lap that I can't say no to. I'm averaging roughly a release per month, which is manageable if it all times out as it should. But it never does and, recently, I had four releases drop in like 16 days. Still recovering.

I'm not terribly popular, I don't think. I stay in fairly consistent contact with dozens of people, and I think maintain a pretty personable "hands-on" approach. Re: I make friends where/when I can when it comes to people (labels, bands, etc.) I come into contact with via the label. Others seem to speak well of me, and I do have lots help in the press/hype department from BlackBirchPR. That was something I did as an experiment, and it has turned out wonderfully. Aside from that, it's just me trying to stay on top of a million things pretty much all the time, frantically replying to emails--et al--while trying to maintain a somewhat normal life.

How would you say you've grown since Halo of Flies' inception? I would guess that you're much more independent in terms of releasing music, but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.  

Cory: Hmm. I am better at most of what I do--more organized [and] more efficient. I've been forced to take on a ton more work and balance it with a full-time job, a relationship, a band, etc. Along the way, there have been problems and hiccups, as the releasing records (and life) is rife with. And to some degree, I've become more measured in how I deal with those missteps and issues. I don't take more than a few days off a year and have a work ethic I don't think I had (as much) before. I'm a stubborn pain in the ass, and that comes in handy when packing orders at 7:00 AM.

Light Bearer's Silver Tongue
If you were stranded on an island, what records from the Halo of Flies roster would you have with you? Feel free to pick your favorites or albums you think represent the label best. 

Cory: Shit. I don't know. Some of my favorite releases have "that song," if you know what I mean. Fall Of Efrafa, Masakari, Lycanthophy, Alpinist, Jungbluth, Northless, LightBearer, Amber, etc., etc. Those bands (and others) have at least one song where I was like, "Yep, holy shit. I love this. I have to release this," or "I'm so glad I've released this."

I think the heavy, hardcore stuff I've done (Masakari, Centuries, Protestant, etc.) and the more doom/post metal stuff (Northless, Light Bearer, Amber, etc.) is most representative of the label as a whole. There are glaring exceptions but, in general, I think I'm portrayed a heavy crust and doom label. I have a hard time picking out my favorites, as I think some were really exciting at the time for a variety of reasons. If I was to gauge public excitement/sales it would have to go:

Fall Of Efrafa - Inle DLP
Light Bearer - Silver Tongue DLP
Jungbluth - Part Ache LP
Masakari - The Prophet Feeds LP
Cloud Rat - Moksha LP

There's a few smaller releases I think I did that were overlooked but, in the end, I don't really care. I like what I release, and that's all that really matters.

I've seen you refer to your releases as "co-runs." Can you explain in detail what that means? 

Cory: Ah, yes, the old "co-release." I've been doing them since the beginning. The limitations of the "industry" and overall financial limitations lend themselves to the idea of co-releasing. It's basically two or more labels sharing in the costs of production of "X" release and handling the distribution of their respective copies of said release how they see fit.

Sometimes the band wants others involved; sometimes other labels want to be part of it; sometimes there's a release that needs the help of other labels for logistical, geographical, or financial reasons. Even if I share the release with another label in the U.S. (example: Cloud Rat's Moksha LP), it's easier to move, say, 200 copies of a single release than 500 or more. In the end, it's just simply a few parties tossing in money for some amount of copies and helping spread them out through their own respective channels, whether proper distributors or via trades, etc.

Protestant's Stalemate
Do you find that colored vinyl pressings sell better?  

Cory: Generally, yes. For example, if 100 copies of a pressing of 500 are on color, those are the ones that sell first. But an entire pressing on color is more aesthetic than gimmick, as it really doesn't matter to the buyer, in that they arent given a choice. I think people, in general, like colored vinyl more, as it can be cool to look at a different or unique record versus the other 1,000 one might own on black.

Do you see any benefit to the split format? Regardless, the split with Northless and Light Bearer is very well done, and one of my favorites from your label. 

Cory: Yes. Bands are exposed the other's "fanbase." Your example is a good one in that respect.

I think splits can be fun to do for that reason and others. It's a bit more to arrange, for sure, and it typically takes a tiny bit more effort to arrange, but it's up to the bands I work with if they want to do stuff like that. Split ideas are usually brought to me and, if it's bands I like to work with or like a whole lot, I'm not one to put up a fight. People want to do cool stuff with their friends and, ultimately, that's what I'm doing in the end as well.

For every music aficionado, there's an artist responsible for kicking off the obsession. What bands (or bands) would you say inspired you most and gave you your passion for music? 

Cory: I still love the first three Def Leppard and Duran Duran LPs. High 'n' Dry is a great hard rock record, and it's a record I've listened to more than any other. Then, Metallica scared the crap out of me, and then Slayer made them look like Sesame Street characters. I've been a huge fan of heavy metal since 1983 and punk/hardcore since 1987 or so. There's a ton of great records I still think of when I get asked things like this. Too many to recall now or list here.

Cory rocking out with Protestant.
Similarly, I imagine there were a few labels you looked up to back in the day. Who inspired you most and gave you an example to follow as you set up Halo of Flies?

Cory: Yeah, back in the day, Vermiform, GernBlandsten, Gravity, Ebullition, Profane Existence, Flat Earth, etc. were definitely the DIY ones I think I kept my eyes on the most, but that was 20 years ago. As I started to think about the label, I saw Havoc, ToLiveALie, TankCrimes, GraveMistake, and a few others as people I think were doing cool stuff in the way I wanted to. I kinda winged it at first. I took a lot of tips from others in my position at the time. I'm always looking for new ways to do things, though I think I pretty much have most of it fairly down, at least from the level at which I operate.

But back to Protestant: you've got new music in the works. Can you tell us anything about the upcoming release? 

Cory: Indeed. We're writing songs. The general plan is to do a 7" of two songs, hopefully by spring of 2014, and record again around the same time and release a new LP later on. So far, details on both are quite tentative, aside from me handling the U.S. portion of both. Musically, it's likely to be the darkest stuff we've ever done.

You've been working deals for wider distribution on Protestant merch, too. Have you noticed your fanbase expanding outside the United States? 

Cory: Yeah. Well, it's now $13-$16 to ship a shirt across the Atlantic/etc., so I figured why sell a shirt for $26ppd when a friend can sell them for less and faster.

On the Protestant fanbase: Not really. Honestly, it's our longevity and slew of releases that bring anyone in our direction. We are not a "big" band by any stretch of the imagination. That said, we've got decent distribution of our records abroad either via me doing trades or labels pressing our records in their respective areas, and people seem to like us where those records have been made/been sold, I guess. I've been told dozens of times to bring Protestant back to Europe and to South East asia, in particular. Our lives get in the way of massive touring, so maybe we'll just fade into obscurity. In the meantime, I'd like to get back to Europe and would love to go to South East asia.

Protestant playing a lively gig. Check out those dreads.
How often do you and Protestant play gigs outside the United States? Do you like going abroad more? 

Cory: We toured Europe once for about two weeks back in 2010, and we played three shows in Canada last year, so not often at all. I like doing anything that's not boring, so I like playing anywhere, really. But the U.S. is far less fun in the sense that it's familiar, safer in a way, and a fucked-up place to look at all the time.

And for the fun one: what's the story behind naming your band Protestant? 

Cory: We had another name we couldn't use because other better and worse bands were using it,
so we wanted a one-word name, and we chose this one.

1) Rorschach had a great LP named Protestant.
2) Protest is in the name.
3) Protestantism has deep connections to the (strange and tumultuous) beginnings of the country we live in.
4) We all work hard. Re: Protestant Work Ethic. In hindsight, it's a crappy name because you can't Google it at all, really. So, there ya go.

Any last words or shout-outs? 

Cory: Yeah, thanks for the interview. I like the incredible attention to detail in the reviews on your site, and I really liked the interview with Mark of Gogmagogical (Whatever, I'm not looking it up!) you did a bit ago. I'd like to say thanks to anyone who spent eight minutes reading this, and everyone who does cool stuff they love wherever they happen to be.


Upcoming releases on Halo of Flies:
HALO62 - Cara Neir - Portal to a Better, Dead World LP 
HALO63 - Suffering Mind / Six Brew Bantha - Split 7"
HALO64 - Monuments Collapse / Breag Naofa - Split LP
HALO65 - Amber / Locktender - Split 7"
HALO66 - Hexis - Abalam LP

Contact Halo of Flies here:

Find Protestant here:

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic! High point for me was the High 'n' Dry mention... I knew he had great taste!: