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Interviews Extremely Rotten Productions

Interview with David Mikkelsen

Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen

Date online: May 28, 2024

Extremely Rotten Productions is a Danish underground label, founded by David Mikkelsen, that started out in 2006 as a small distro effort. David is considered a dedicated underground metal warrior, having a soft spot for all things extreme in metal. He's also known for his band Undergang that has been around since 2008 and has a bunch of minor and major releases to their credit.

We contacted the maestro himself with the intention of learning more about running the label and his past, present, and future releases, his record shop in Copenhagen, Denmark, and so forth. David kindly provided us with loads of information in response to our inquiries about the whole concept of Extremely Rotten Productions.

Hell-o there, David! How's it rotting in Copenhagen, Denmark, in spring 2024, Anno Bastardi?

David: Hi Luxi! Thanks for inviting me into The Metal Crypt! Things here are well, thank you. I just got back from a tour in the US with my band Undergang and am replying to the interview after closing hours in the ERP store, with a cold beer at hand and a view out the store windows at the evening sun above the botanical gardens across the street. Life could be a lot worse!

To get things started properly, could you tell us what kind of things triggered you to form your label/distro and open up a record store in Copenhagen in the first place?

David: I guess the short story is that I wanted to be able to share and spread the music of the bands I liked with others, starting with creating a small distro in 2006. I called the distro Torturdød, which as some people might recognize as the moniker that I later adopted as my "artists name" in Undergang for the first releases, but that's a different story. So, I created a small distro of various vinyl and cassette releases mostly, which I'd store in milk crates and bring out to shows or friends would come by my apartment and browse a bit there. I'd buy releases from bands I liked at shows or through mail order from bands or record labels. Eventually I made a Blogspot too and offered mail-order items for non-local people interested in ordering stuff I had available too, but it was mostly a local thing and something I'd bring out with me sometimes for the early shows we played with Undergang, as well.

In 2011 I did a promotional tape for the second Undergang album and after the first round of maybe 200 tapes, which we brought with us on tour, I decided to try to keep sharing the promo tapes and keep dubbing more copies (which I did from my tape player at home and in total something like 900 copies, I believe). To be able to offer it to a wider audience, I opened up for doing trades with labels to get it out and then dubbed it as the first Extremely Rotten release. I called the label Extremely Rotten Records first, but changed it to Extremely Rotten Productions down the line, as I felt I did more activities under the name than just a record label. And since the first releases were just on cassette, I felt a bit silly calling it a record label. Should probably have been called Extremely Rotten Cassettes instead, haha! So, for about six years I did some cassette releases on and off, but as I was also quite busy with my bands and had a full-time job at the time, it was not super serious. Then in 2017 I stepped it up a bit and invested more of my personal money in more cassette releases and tried to build up the distro more and got a webstore created, thanks to my friend and then bassist of Undergang, Sam Osborne, who was living with me around the time we were doing European shows. I had no IT skills, so the label/distro needed a kick up the butt with help from the outside. At the same time my then girlfriend, now wife, Jenny, created social media pages for the label and helped bring more awareness of what I was doing with Extremely Rotten.

In 2018 Jenny and I needed to find a new place to live and found an apartment with a store front too and I instantly thought it'd be fun to try to do a part-time record store with us living in the back. Thankfully, Jenny supported the idea, and we bought the apartment in December 2017 and in June 2018 we made things ready to open up Extremely Rotten as a physical store. At first, it was only open on Fridays and Saturdays, as I was still working a normal job, though part time, and then handling mail orders, etc. in the evening on the other days of the week. That was also the time when I started doing releases on vinyl, too. The store worked that way for a year and a half and then, with the encouragement and support of Jenny, I took a 6-month sabbatical from my job and went full time with the label. However, that was in late February 2020 and about a month later the pandemic hit Denmark and I couldn't keep the store open due to the restrictions. Thankfully, a lot of people were still ordering from our web store, so I stayed afloat financially thanks to that and figured that if I could manage to do the label as a full-time occupation while there was a worldwide pandemic, and I could also make it work when the world opened up again and quit my other job when the sabbatical ended in the summer of 2019.

I then started looking for a new location for the store, as I was running out of space and needed a better location, as the first one was quite out of the way in Amager in Copenhagen. I found a new location in the center of town at the end of 2020, hired a lawyer to help go through the contract with the landlord and signed to take over the new spaces on January 1, 2021, where Extremely Rotten is still located on Gothersgade 135 in central Copenhagen.

Was it difficult to get to the point with your label/distro and store to where you are now? Nothing is free, so running a label and keeping your store stuffed with some cool stuff has required a lot of hard work, correct?

David: Oh yeah, it's certainly something that always keeps you busy, running a label and record store and constantly trying to be relevant and up to date with what's going on and keeping up with new bands and new releases. But since I'm an absolute feral nerd anyway and have made my profession all within the business of death metal, it's something I enjoy! But it's a lot of work for sure and I usually spend about 50 hours a week down in the store working on various chores running both that and the label. There's always room for improvement, too. It's satisfying seeing little steps up, making the store easier to navigate for the customer and myself, too.

What's your driving force that keeps you doing what you do for your label/distro and store?

David: I've been a death metal fan and enthusiast since I was a teenager, so getting to work full time on nothing but every aspect around the genre is still quite exciting for me. While it most certainly is a demanding job doing what I do, at the same time it doesn't feel the same way going in to work in the morning, like it did when I worked as a janitor at a college. I feel very lucky to be able to do what I do, but also have worked and still do work hard. It's certainly nothing I get rich from, so I'm grateful for anyone choosing to do their shopping in ERP and ordering from our web store. There's a lot of choices these days, likely more record labels and distros than ever, so people have a lot of options and choices and we're just one of many. I just try to focus on the bands I enjoy and try to bring in releases from bands and labels I like and respect too, as well as order in releases that our customers ask for.

I love death metal and just try to add more to the genre where I can and make sick releases available to those interested.

Is there some sort of criteria for how you choose your releases? What makes a good band in your eyes/ears?

David: It's all run by passion here and not on what will necessarily sell. A lot of our releases are bands consisting of friends of the label, locally and internationally. I like being able to help share and promote the music of the people I like through the channels I've been able to create with ERP. That and personal taste in newer bands that I like, and I wish to try to push further. When it's not new bands we release, I like doing LP reissues of old personal favorite demos, where and when I've been able to track down a contact for them through mutual friends I've made through networking over the years. Those releases are a bit riskier, as you're releasing a band that isn't playing any longer and therefore won't be as visible to the buyer as an active band that might be out touring still would be. But ERP releases are driven by my passion and love for the genre, so I just wish to share the music of the bands that I love with anyone who cares and sometimes it goes well and other times the releases might end up taking a while to get sold, but that's okay, too. I like having it available for other fans to be able to discover the greatness and then get excited when they see we have it available. It's a labor of love, meant to be shared.

What's your regular run of a cassette/CD/LP edition, or does it depend on the release? Do you ever do reprints of any of your releases, or do you prefer having them all as limited runs only? In other words, when some release is sold out, it's sold out forever.

David: It's various for sure. We usually do between 200-500 copies of tape releases, between 300-500 of CD releases and 300-1000 copies of LP releases for each pressing. If the release is relevant and there's a demand after a pressing is sold out, we're open to do new pressing to keep it available. Again, it varies from each release. If it's a relevant band and release, it deserves to be available, and we've done that with quite a few of our releases. Some might just be small runs for the bands to sell as a part of a tour and a smaller promo version for an upcoming release. I like doing those too, but generally prefer to make things widely available to those interested.

What's your favorite format to digest your daily dose of music when you want to relax a little bit? A big, black, and shiny old-school LP perhaps? ;o)

David: Oh, I listen to LPs, CDs, and tapes still. I prefer the LP format for the bigger presentation of the cover artwork, but all formats have my interest when it comes to listening. It's only been a few years since I retired my Walkman, so until recently carrying tapes with me to listen to when traveling was a very crucial thing, haha!

As a music lover, I think all physical formats have their strong aspects of presentation and sound, so I like all three. And I love 7" releases, too, and often a band's best material can be found on their earlier EPs and that's a strong point for collecting those as well, haha!

Do you sell your releases through the online store and actual physical store only, or do you try to sell your stuff at concerts and festivals as well?

David: Since I opened the physical record store, I don't really bother taking our releases or distro stock out any longer. I now have a base where people can find it in central Copenhagen and we're open 5 days a week, so that's always an option. I used to bring out the distro to shows, but can't be bothered any longer, haha! Let the mountain come to Muhammed, I say!

How do you normally create your first contacts with your clients (i.e., bands)? Do bands normally try to reach out to you first?

David: It's very rare that I've accepted releases based on bands contacting me, honestly. I mainly work with people and bands I already know, or I'll reach out and offer something, if I've bought and encountered something myself that I like and wish to help promote further through the ERP channels. ERP is just a small label, so a lot of the time bands can be better served elsewhere to begin with, and our profile is quite "conversative" in the music we chose to promote. Mostly it's slimy and gritty, HEAVY underground death metal we release, and I have quite a particular taste in what I wish to put out on the label and try to stay true to that. The few releases I've done for friends where it's been a bit different in style doesn't seem to do as well either, as people tend to come to ERP for big fat death metal and if it's not, the sales might not be as good. It is what it is and I'm trying to stay true to that, while supporting some friends' releases sometimes.

Have some of these attempts to release something with certain bands ever failed due to unprofessional, unfriendly, or just bad behavior from a band's side?

David: A little bit, but then I've just put a lid on it and decided not to work with them again and let it go. I mainly work with people I consider friends, so most things have been a good experience and a project of mutual respect, which makes the whole process a lot more fun for everyone.

Have you ever lost your nerve completely with some band (-s) perhaps due to some of these mentioned points that I listed in my previous question?

David: Haha... Once, but I won't go into detail with that in public. I can be quite a control monster and if I think something would be best my way and their compromise being unacceptable to me, it's been hard to swallow, even if I'll always bend to the band's wishes in the end, as it's their art being projected through my label, and they should always have the final say. It's mostly the visual sides of releases with that kind of stuff. What can you do, I'm most certainly NOT always right, but I do think I have a good idea of what a good release looks like and try to keep it that way. And I succeed in most of the time, haha!

Then I'd like to ask you what's your take on some of these cassette labels nowadays that focus on releasing only cassettes. There are a lot of people out there who collect cassettes very enthusiastically again after so many years, even if it's certainly not the most practical format to get your daily dose of music digested...

David: I think it's cool and understand it, especially since that's where ERP started! I've never outgrown listening to cassettes myself and have always thought it was a great fit for death metal music and presentation, so why not? I generally think, if it's a good release, that it should be available on other formats, so you don't neglect a certain group of listeners to be able to buy a physical product. But I've also not done that with some of my releases, so I make exceptions.

I still think the cassette is cool and fun, but sadly the production of them has gotten quite expensive over the years, so you can't offer a tape release as cheap as you used to be able to, which was a part of their charm. You could go see a band live and buy a cheap tape from them to check out later, if you liked them live, but didn't want to spend as much money buying an LP and then you would also be able to just put it in your pocket and not lose it as easily, while being out all night, haha!

At home, I probably listen to tape releases as much as LPs and CDs. Maybe to some degree more, as a lot of my favorite demos I still only have on those old tapes.

Are there some extreme underground labels out there that you admire and look up to what they are doing, keeping the extreme underground metal scene alive and breathing, so to speak?

David: Lots! I wouldn't say any label inspires ERP in what I do for this label, but there are lots of great labels doing great and important work in releasing and documenting the contemporary death metal scene. Maybe not as "underground" any longer, but I love Dark Descent Records and Me Saco Un Ojo Records in particular, as I've worked with them since they were fresh young labels, as a recording artist myself with my bands and having been able to see the labels and bands on them grow together has been awesome and something I'm truly honored of being a part of. Other labels I love and trust are Nuclear Winter Records, The Crypt/Dark Symphonies Records, Night Shroud Records, Unholy Domain Records, Grindfather Productions, Carbonized Records, Dawnbreed Records, Gurgling Gore Records, Headsplit Records, Obliteration Records, Selfmadegod Records, and the list goes on! Lots of important documenting labels in the underground and a lot that the world maybe doesn't need, haha! But that's a matter of taste, I guess. It seems like every death metal fan and his dog has a label these days and maybe some releases get put out that didn't necessarily make the cut with "quality" control but that's also a matter of taste and I'm sure ERP has released stuff some people find unjustified. What can you do? I'll leave it at that, haha!

You have released a respectable amount of items on your label over the years (including shirts). Can you tell us right off the bat, which release makes you most proud thus far, and is there also some kind of special story involved?

David: I don't think I can point such a thing out. Are you able or allowed to state which is your favorite child as a parent? I don't know, for the most part I'm very humbled and honored that any of the bands we've worked with has chosen to go through ERP and put their art and trust in me to do it justice. Again, I'm just a fan and a contemporary musician too, so I like to think I have an idea about how to treat the bands on a label, based on what I'd like myself, and hope I'm able to practice that.

What's on your bucket list next, release-wise?

David: I have no such thing; I just like what I do and am happy to work with like-minded creative people and be able to help release and promote their music. I hope I can be relevant and still do this for many years to come and that people will continue being interested in what we release and come to us to satisfy their death metal craving, be it our releases or items from our distro.

How do you see the future of Extremely Rotten Productions? Do you believe you might expand your activities in the coming months?

David: I'm quite happy where I am now, but I also do try to think of potential new ways of expanding Extremely Rotten activities. I hope to start working on a label showcase festival for 2025 here in Copenhagen and in the long run a bit of a dream expansion would be having a bar and venue, too, but that's dreaming big, haha! Oh well, I plan on living for a few years still, so maybe it can be realized eventually! Till then, I'm happy running and working in my little death metal store and keep pushing the most in demand and filthy death metal the underground has to offer and am grateful there are people out there who care and wish to get their supply from us.

I guess that was all for my part, so I want to wholeheartedly thank you, David, for your time to make this interview happen, and of course, all the best to you with all of your future endeavors with Extremely Rotten Productions, of course!

David: Thank you Luxi, I have a lot of respect and love for your work over the years and am always happy when you show interest in what I do or my opinion with anything related to The Metal Crypt! Thanks for your time spent on this and for writing the interview!

And thank you to the readers who made it through all of this, I hope there's been a bit of an enlightenment into the intestines of Extremely Rotten and that you might be interested in seeing and hearing a bit of what we're a part of creating. And if not, maybe at least a somewhat entertaining read!

Any crazy and fucked-up closing words to wrap up this conversation properly enough perhaps?

David: I once swallowed a lock of my hair while drinking from a pint, as I was watching Benediction play live and spewed all over the back, jeans, and backpack of a poor guy standing in front of me, without him noticing. Day one of a three-day festival. I'm sorry. Goodbye...! ;o)


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