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Patrick Kitzel (Reaper Records) Interview

October 14, 2009

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There is not much here i can say without all of you already knowing, but Reaper Records is hands down the best label in hardcore today. This interview touches on many subjects about reaper and a lot of other things Patrick has done (True Blue, Spawn, Repel Fanzine, Halo Tattoos, etc…)

How have things been? How’s life hanging in Syracuse working at Halo while holding the fort down with Reaper?
Life’s been crazy man but good. This year has been crazy for Reaper. I think so far we’ve put out at least one release per month and still no end in sight.

I’ve noticed that it’s been a crazy past few months for reaper; I want to touch on that later in the interview. Now originally you are from Germany, whereabouts did you grow up and what was it like growing up over there?
I grew up in Essen Germany, one of Germanys main industrial areas. I grew up like any other kid, loved playing outside, eventually started skateboarding and started listening to hardcore and punk.

I was just recently over there and it seems like everywhere you go over in Europe and especially in Germany is less modernized than it is over here in the States, just from looking at the city and the buildings and the way people get around.
Well I guess World War II leveled so much stuff out that most of the cities had to be rebuilt. I also think the fact that Germany doesn’t spent billions and billions on wars in 3rd world countries has to do with more funds being available to be spent on Green technology and stuff like that…

Did the war still have a huge affect on the way people lived when you were growing up over there?
I think it will always have an impact no matter how late after the war you were born there. It’s just a real touchy subject. I mean over here nobody really thinks about all the Indians that got killed and the land that was stolen or even the Asian people that were put in camps over here against their will after pearl harbor and stuff…I just feel that Germany has that shadow over their people and even though rightfully so its still a little depressing that the past cant just be the past ya know? Anyways, it’s important that people know that Germany is not what it was 60 years ago and that 99% of the people there feel disgusted about their past.

How old were you when you first got introduced to music? What were some of your idols growing up?
I grew up listening to lots of 50s stuff because that’s what my parents where listening to. My mom got me into Elvis when I was maybe 8 or so and that’s still my favorite to this day. I don’t know about idols. I was into pretty much what every kid was into, rambo, bruce lee shit like that action heroes.

Eventually you got into hardcore and punk, how were you introduced?
As I said I got into skateboarding around summer of 88 and then the next year I started learning about hardcore and punk from other skater kids or skatevideos, thrasher magazine and other German skate mags, people would trade tapes and stuff…

What were some of the first tapes you got your hands on?
Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Dead Kennedy’s a whole bunch of German punk bands like Slime and Daily Terror…

Everyone has that one band that pulls them in, either with the lyrics or the music. What band(s) really stuck out to you and made you want to become apart of the hardcore scene?
Well there were a few bands like that. Bad Brains and Minor Threat definitely were my favorites back then along with Youth Of Today and Judge. Bad Brains really were a band you listened to and were like what the fuck is going on. They would be lightening fast one sec and then jamming these Rasta tunes the next minute. It blew my mind the first time I heard them and still blows my mind to this day. It’s in my book the all time best band and everyone who disagrees sucks. Minor threat and YOT definitely got the straight edge thing going with me. Their lyrics made me rethink all the peer pressure growing up and straighten myself out. My parents are alcoholics and I would have become one too if it wouldn’t have been for hardcore and Straight Edge I am sure. YOT made me go vegetarian after hearing the song “NO MORE” and after picking up Animal Liberation by Singer, which was suggested in the layout of the We are not In this Alone LP. Cro Mags and AF and all the NY stuff obviously were always at the forefront to.

Eventually you started to be more involved by playing in bands and starting a label, what was the first band you became involved with?
Yeah it was the idea of a hard sound that was appealing to me as a young rebellious type kid with lots of anger piled up but at the same time it was intelligent. It wasn’t like metal that everyone loves to jock these days. Pantera are a joke compared to the Bad Brains in every aspect. Ya know what I mean? The first band I became involved with was Spawn. A local sxe band that I first roadied for and then when Chris their first singer quit I joined and took over vocal duties.

I just recently picked up the Spawn full length while on tour but it’s not the one you sang on, which records did you sing on for Spawn?
I did the Despair/Spawn split 7″ the LP you picked up was the LP on New Age Records. It came out the summer of 1996 and I joined right after that came out.

I’ve been looking for that split but still have had no luck, im sure ill get my hands on it soon. Spawn was the first European hardcore band to tour the States, what did that feel like being apart of that and having such an impact on European hardcore.
Well it wasn’t the very first euro HC band but definitely the first of that era and that style ya know? It was a different time man, no cell phones, the internet hadn’t kicked in yet, no mapquest or GPS shit, everything was different. You tour and you know it aint easy, now imagine how it was without all that technology, hahaha kids complain these days about having to wait 2 weeks for their mailorder. Back in the 80s and 90s you were stoked when it got to your house after 4 months or at all ha.

I often think about what it would be like if we had no internet, no gps, only a map and the address to the show, im curious to try it someday haha
Do it and let me know how it goes, Haha.

Haha I’m sure no one would be down haha
Yeah, haha

I read that Spawn was also the first band to be on a label in the states is that right or was it again the first band of that era?
Well of course there where other bands before spawn on US labels, especially bigger punk bands and metal bands etc… you gotta see it in the right context a euro straight edge band on a straight edge label like New Age at the times was definitely special.

That must have been a good feeling was the split 7″ you did with despair released in the states?
The 7″ did not come out in the states but was distributed world wide.

You did a fanzine called Repel, when was that around?
I did Repel a few years before spawn, like 1994 till maybe 1998 or so, 4 or 5 issues total.

What were some of the bands that you interviewed in repel?
Merauder, Earth Crisis, Madball, Stale, Brothers Keeper, and Damage ID.

Repel also was a tape label is that correct? What made you decide to only put out tapes?
Well in the early and mid 90s that’s what people still did to a large extent It wasn’t like today where everyone and their mother put out cds and 7″.

You did demos for Buried Alive, Born From Pain, True Blue, what other bands did you put out tapes for and what was the response like over in Germany for Repel and the bands that you put out?
I did a despair live tape, the damage id demo, the discord demo, iron skull demo and 2 tape comps, maybe some others too that I forgot haha. Anyways the response was always awesome, true blue sold over 1000 demos, it was nuts, all hand copied tapes haha I couldn’t imagine now 12 years later doing that.

That must have been a lot of work, and very stressful im sure. How long were you doing tapes for, just as long as you were doing the zine or did it last a little longer?
Pretty much from like 93 until 99 or so…

Alright so as most people know you did True Blue, and you mentioned that you put out the True Blue demo, when and how did true blue start?
True blue started out as an idea that Spawns and True Blue / World Collapse drummer Rene and I had back in 1997. Originally we called the band Harsh Truth but changed the name after jamming some Madonna one day to True Blue. We started practicing with the original line up soon after and recorded the demo in 98 early 1998 I think it was then a year after the record came out.

I always wondered where the name came from haha, True Blue toured the states as well is that right?
Yeah in the summer of 2001, half was with death threat and the other half with hatebreed and e town concrete.

How were those tours?
It was awesome, people where digging it and it was great to tour with our friends in hatebreed and death threat. I also just remembered that the last demo I put out was the Desperate Measures demo that we took out on the tour with DT to open up the shows.

That tour sounds like it would have been a blast, after that you decided to move to the states, why the big move?
When we came home the bass player quit and we couldn’t find a worthy replacement. So we put our 2nd guitar player on bass and that didn’t work out either.

Was true blue all that you really had going over there at the time?
I was working during that time either construction or worked at this place that did professional theatre comedy and rock shows, so I booked bands and whatnot at that place Full time.

Did you live anywhere else before living in Syracuse or has this been the only place in the states you have resided at?
I was dating this girl from around here at the time and she ended up moving to Germany. After a few months she started hating it there and so we moved to the states after TB broke up. Syracuse has been pretty much the only place I lived in the states.

Why Syracuse?
That’s where she lived and also I knew DJ and Buske and everyone already for years from the hardcore scene. I’ve actually known DJ since 1994.

How did you and him get in touch?
He used to tour manage earth crisis and that’s pretty much how we met, he knew already about me from mike ski who sang for brothers keeper who I was friends with and still am of course.

DJ went on to start up Halo Tattoos, when did you start working there and what is it you?
I started here at halo in 2002. I am the business manager, basically everyone at halo works for me and I work for the 2 owners. I am in charge of employees, payroll, advertising, bills etc…

That’s a pretty serious role on the business end of things, is it complicated to be managing that business as well as your own?
Yes it defiantly gets hectic sometimes but I got it under control, haha.

Do you have people helping you out with the label or is it all done by yourself?
It’s mostly done by myself. BUSKE, GUAV and DJ help out wherever they can. My man pigg helps a lot out with Fests and shows and TC and DAN K as well as T DUBS and PIGG are definitely apart of the assembly line at my house whenever records have to get put together and shipped out.

Its good to have a crew of friends to help out when things get hectic. So how did everything come about for reaper? What made you decide to put out records?
DJ and I really wanted to do a label to put out local stuff. AWOL at the time did a demo and we liked them so we asked them to do a 7″ for reaper.

After the Awol 7” you put out the Terror demo 7” that really put your label to another level. How did that come together?
I’ve been friends with Scott since the early 90’s and basically knew him trough most of his bands. I did the despair live tape, I did a split with spawn and despair with him, I did the buried alive demo, toured with all of his bands and whatnot so doing something with terror was only natural.

On the topic of Terror you’ve done a number of records with them on reaper, recently you put out Terrors new record “The Damned the Shamed” onto a picture disc. That record was originally released through Century Media, what was it like working with them to get the rights and everything else to put the record out?
I’ve known the people at century media since they are from Germany, actually the true blue LP was talked about coming out on CM anyways. I worked with them a bunch in the past for the Merauder reissue and stuff; the dudes at CM have been pleasant to work with.

That record has a lot of different qualities to it but yet is still a terror record to me. What are your thoughts on it, it’s obvious you are into it, but what are your thoughts on how they have developed their sound over the years?
I think they get better with every record, I can honestly say that I like every new one they do better then the one before.

Black SS have been a band that everyone has loved in Syracuse and the surrounding cities for some time now. How did the Foreign Object cd come about?
After AWOL broke up and some of those dudes started BSS I was kind of bummed, I first liked AWOL a lot better then BSS but as they progressed and came into their own more and more. I fell in love with their sound and that was basically how we ended up doing the LP.

Recently you did CD discography for Black SS, did they approach you first about doing that or was that initially your idea?
We ran out of the CDs and instead of just repressing the Foreign Object CD I had the idea of just grabbing everything and putting it on one cd for the same price as a regular cd and to make a real cool layout….

It came together great, lets fast forward a bit; recently you put out the “Mercy for None” Comp, where did you get the idea to put that together?
When I grew up I loved comps. It was kind of like the Internet nowadays. You would get a comp and get to check out a bunch of bands, these days you cruise the Internet to check out bands I kind of wanted to bring that vibe back.

Many people think that all of the bands that are on that comp are now on reaper, but only Naysayer is a reaper band; do you plan to work with any of the other bands on that comp?
There are some plans to work with Unforgiven for sure.

Great band excited to see what they do next. Now Trapped Under Ice has had a huge impact on the label, how did you first come about them?
Well even though Pauly thinks he discovered them Buske and I both found TUI on myspace. I loved the demo and even though they were a little rough the first time I saw them I was instantly into what they were doing. They are great kids and definitely do their thing and do it well!

Were you expecting them to gain as much popularity as they have?
I wasn’t thinking in that way, honestly I never do with reaper bands. Terror have been my friends since day one. I could care less how big they are, I love what terror does and how they do it and they feel the same way about me and that’s why we do stuff together. Same goes for Forfeit and Naysayer or Black SS and most defiantly TUI. People who say they are a hype band are stupid. They tour their asses off and are one of the best bands around. They are on top of what they are doing musically. Maybe some kids dig em because they are having some push behind them but in 10 years you will be able to listen to them still and be like yeah that was the shit. While all this other whack washed up want to be throwdown sounding bands are gone, it’s all about the test of time man!

I couldn’t agree more, they are a hard working band and hard work pays off “Secrets of the World” their new LP just dropped like a week ago, how has the responses been? I’m sure the preorder list was endless for you
Yeah the pre orders where crazy. Between Reaper and Merchnow it was over 600 copies in pre orders. The 1st press is sold out and the record came out august 4th, which was yesterday haha

Haha man that is awesome, congrats! Are you satisfied with how this LP came out, with the artwork, layout, sound and everything involved with putting out the record?
Yeah I am very happy. DJ ROSE HALO/Reaper did the artwork. Our man Buske did the layout and everything came together awesome. I think it stands out for sure but still looks like a classic hardcore record, I am very proud.

On the previous record Dan Higgs did the artwork for the 7” and the preorders. Why did you decide to have DJ (Halo Tattoo) do up the artwork this time?
DJ is not only part of reaper but also a big fan of the band. When the band came up with the title it was a no brainer that DJ would be a great artist to do the artwork for the record.

It came together great. This isn’t the first time you’ve used someone at Halo to do up artwork for one of your releases.
Definitely not, Tommyrot did a whole bunch from black ss to merauder and Chris Chisholm who tattoos for us (used to play guitar in all out war, OG line up) did the terror blood tracks demo cover and the naysayer 7″ cover.

That must be a relief having artist all around you and not having to worry about finding someone to draw up a record cover.
ehhh hahaha it is and it isn’t, trust me no matter what its always a struggle. It wouldn’t be a hardcore label if it was all easy all the time haha.

Now you mentioned the “master killer” re-release you did a while back, any plans for other re-releases in the future?
Not sure yet.

Now I wanted to talk about the reaper website and the new Reaper “R”. Why the new design and why the new logo?
The logo was done by Rene of world collapse, I had this whole idea of having something that people can draw easy on their jackets or school books or on bathroom walls. Something along the lines of the Dead Kennedy’s logo or Urban Waste etc… So that’s why we sat down and created the Reaper R. The new website was both of our ideas. I wanted something that takes basically no clicking around to get the info you want. Something really stripped down, I also wanted it really hardcore looking in a way that no other website looks like. Rene came up with the idea of having it like a hardcore scrapbook or a fanzine style.

The new logo and site looks great. Now everyone has some guilty pleasures when it comes to music, what are some artist/bands that no one would expect you to be into?
Let me think about guilty pleasures, music wise…I don’t really think I have any. I like lots of diverse stuff but nothing really were people could say that that’s some serious faggot shit haha. I definitely listen to a lot of 50’s stuff especially girl groups from that era… lots of old school reggae, I love Ryan Adams who you could say is definitely a bit of a fag but his music is the shit. Everyone needs to own EASY TIGER!

What are some bands out right now that are not on Reaper that you have been into lately?
Bracewar is definitely a great band, Alpha and Omega, Warhungry, Steel Nation, Creatures are fucking hard as shit… Down To Nothing “the most” is one of the best records of the past few years!

Lets dig into the future a little bit more, what would you want reaper to be remembered for say 20 years from now?
That we were a hardcore label. Not a record label perse but a hardcore label that put out hardcore records. Reaper is not interested in the record industry and all its BS, we are a grass roots hardcore label that’s all…

What do you have coming up next for reaper? Any secrets you can let out of the bag?
The Maximum Penalty and Forfeit LPs are up next. After that the piece by piece and born low 10″s. Hopefully the true blue demo 7″ and world collapse ep vinyl version by the end of the year. Black ss are working on a new full length and we are still working on the slugfest discography. 2010 will bring some goodies of course…

Thank you for doing this interview, any closing comments?
Big ups to Syracuse hardcore and major thumps down to all the haters out there! Thanks to all the people that have been supporting us since day one and all the new people that got our back, Hardcore lives!

Go and check out reaper records online. Be sure to keep an eye out for the new Maximum Penalty and Forfeit LP’s.
Website: http://www.reaper-records.com

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