A few years back someone at Roadrunner Records thought it would be a good idea to have me write their "official" history so I fired up keyboard and created a rather grand, if only somewhat truthful, company history. Not many have gotten to see it, probably for good reason, so here it is...
The Lou Brutus History of Roadrunner Records
Since 1980, ROADRUNNER RECORDS, Inc. has been synonymous with the fiercest and most awe inspiring rock music in the history of civilization. For over a quarter of a century, the very mention of its name has caused women to wail like banshees and grown men to fall to their knees weeping, overcome by their impotence in the face of its all encompassing power. It will eventually melt the polar ice caps and engulf all life on this planet in an unstoppable tide of rock. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.
This worldwide juggernaut of musical madness and fierce business smarts was formed by current chairman Cees Wessels in Amsterdam, after he was visited by the patron saint of the city’s artisans Vincent Van Gogh. The late painter appeared in a dream to the young man pointing to his one good ear proclaiming, “I, who have given up my other ear for art, proclaim that you shall create art for the ears of others.” Having been given this mandate, Wessels began his near holy mission by licensing U.S. hard rock for the Euro market including Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and others. Yes, ROADRUNNER brought the metal but it also brought other bastard genres left for dead by the evil corporate types by repping seminal U.S. rock, punk, and alternative labels like SST, Taang!, Triple X, Twin Tone and Relativity--home to artists as wide ranging as Black Flag, Sonic Youth, The Replacements and more. This maniacal desire for diversity lives on at ROADRUNNER to this day with a mind boggling array of successful artists in all rock subgenres as well as enough surprising catalog items to dizzy the brain of even the most ardent music geek.
It was in November 1986 (after months of planning that dwarfed even Eisenhower’s plans for D-Day) that ROADRUNNER first arrived in New York. Appearing suddenly out of the early morning Hudson River fog, landing craft filled with rock soldiers began discharging their heroic cargo on America’s shores. Fighting was vicious thru lower Manhattan as the debauched, jack booted troops of the music industry tried in vain to keep the righteous ROADRUNNER freedom fighters from their new digs. These offices, actually a series of underground, titanium encased bunkers, were set up in NY for two reasons. First, to sign, record and produce the greatest rock music that America could provide. Second, to directly handle the marketing of the artists here in the U.S. These offices became the company’s most significant A&R source causing other labels to gnash their teeth in jealousy. The international headquarters, perhaps more important to mankind than the United Nations, are in Holland while the company also keeps outposts to serve the teeming, rock starved masses in England, France, Germany, Japan and Australia.
Much of ROADRUNNER’S success is built upon its unmatched foresight in joining forces with artists who not only become staples of the company but of the very genres and cultures they have come to define. King Diamond, whose operatic vocals, lyrical genius and ghostly white faced paint ushered in a movement that lives on today in artists as diverse as Marilyn Manson and Avenged Sevenfold. Rhythm crazed metal warriors, Sepultura whose integration of their homeland Brazilian sounds into the genre have inspired mosh madness from St. Petersburg, Florida to St. Petersburg, Russia. It was in the late 90’s that many of ROADRUNNER’S early plans for world domination came to glorious fruition in the form of Brooklyn based Type O Negative whose “Christian Woman” single commando styled its way stealthily onto radio airwaves and became the label’s first Gold-certified act. Type O was followed in quick Gold-blessed succession by “spooky core” heroes Coal Chamber and the genre defining, electro-thrash wickedness of Fear Factory. Then, all hell broke loose when the company hooked up with a nine man aggregate of lost souls from the previously bypassed artery of the American Heartland…Des Moines, Iowa. Satan himself wet his panties in horror at the site of the malevolent, masked marauders known as Slipknot. Their army of fans, a charming group of human flotsam known as “maggots,” overran the known world, pillaging record stores at will and leading to ROADRUNNER’S first Platinum certification.
In 1999, the company made a strategic move that rivaled the appointment of George S. Patton to lead the U.S. 3rd Army in World War 2 when it chose Jonas Nachsin as President. This move resonates to this very day as his previous four years as G.M., coupled with his background in Sales & Marketing, continues to create a synergy among all of ROADRUNNER’S departments that brings any entity foolish enough to tangle with it to their knees.
The year of 2001 saw the odyssey of ROADRUNNER continue forward at light speed beginning with the announcement of its partnership with Island Def Jam for distribution in many territories through Universal Music and Video Distribution (UMVD). Being allied with Island Def Jam and working together as sworn blood brothers of rock allowed the major to complement the inner workings of the label and lend tactical support where necessary. At the same time, ROADRUNNER unleashed a musical pincer movement upon the world that solidified its position as an unstoppable force in the galaxy. It released the sophomore album by Slipknot entitled Iowa,which shipped Platinum, debuted at #3 on the Billboard Top 200 and shamed the feeble minded critics of the band as if they were dogs who had messed upon the carpet. Only a month later, the label let loose the second half of the pincer in the form of Nickelback’s Silver Side Up. The album blitzed its way to a #2 debut on the Billboard Top 200, went on to quintuple Platinum status and ushered in a new era for the entire label ROADRUNNER was now no longer just the pre-eminent metal label on Earth; it was also a major player across the entire rock spectrum. Nickelback’s “How You Remind Me” went on to become the most played song of 2002 across all formats of commercial radio and rallied rock fans around the world to the band’s clarion call helping set up the triple Platinum success of their next two releases, The Long Road and All the Right Reasons It also opened a Pandora’s Box of musical phantasmagoria for the label foreshadowing the radio success of bothStone Sour and Theory of A Deadman.
Meanwhile back in the label’s titanium encased bunkers, the powers that be refused to rest on their laurels. Preternaturally sensing the coming need for an online presence previously unseen on this planet, they hired a renegade group of technological outlaws to spearhead ROADRUNNER’S electronic assets The fruits of their insidiously industrious labors wore born in the form of www.roadrunnerrecords.com. From its seemingly humble beginnings, it has worked itself into an incredibly diverse online community with a tenfold growth since 2001 Contributor’s like Blabbermouth.net and Infernal Combustion have become the envy of the online music scene.
The label currently features the following RIAA U.S. certification: Nickelback Silver Side Up (5x Platinum), Nickelback The Long Road (Triple Platinum), Nickelback All the Right Reasons (Triple Platinum), Slipknot Disasterpieces Home Video (Triple Platinum), Slipknot Slipknot (Double Platinum), Slipknot Welcome to Our Neighborhood Home Video (Platinum), Type O Negative Blood Kisses (Platinum), Type O Negative October Rust (Gold), Nickelback The State (Gold), Fear Factory Obsolete (Gold), Coal Chamber Coal Chamber (Gold) and Sepultura Chaos A.D. (Gold).
In the once untouchable world of Grammy Awards, ROADRUNNER RECORDS artists now swarm the ceremonies like Orcs attacking Minas Tirith in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Ring.s Grammy highlights for the label include five nominations in 2004 (a staggering 3 out of 5 noms in the Metal Performance category were ROADRUNNER titles) and picking up its first ever Grammy Award in 2006 when Slipknot brought home the Metal Performance award for their bold, bleak and beguiling behemoth Volume 3: The Subliminal Verses.
In 2005, ROADRUNNER RECORDS celebrated its Silver Anniversary with a party that would have made Caligula himself blush with envy. The show, entitled Roadrunner United, was held in New York City and featured an all star array of label artists from throughout its storied history. A Who’s Who of the music and media worlds needed to screw their eyeballs back into their sockets after seeing the musical bacchanal that was presented. Emergency rooms throughout NY were filled with rock fans whose bodies were overcome by overdoses of metal that had entered their bloodstreams through their eardrums during the show.
Along its path to glory, ROADRUNNER has made its name a brand unto itself to which consumers, artists and marketing partners alike are drawn like frat boys to a kegger. All kidding aside, this success across all artistic and consumer groups is because the label was formed and is continued to be guided by people who in their heart of hearts are music fans. This fact is why the inner fire is still lit to fight with unbridled determination to keep ROADRUNNER true to its core base and to expand its knowledge of the broader rock world thru vision and experience. It is this love and respect of all music that has put ROADRUNNER where it is and will lead it to even greater victories in the future.
Empires have risen and fallen, trends have come and gone…but ROADRUNNER RECORDS remains It is both
the Alpha and the Omega. It will never die.