Tell our readers a little about ClawHammer PR, who you are and what you do!
Scott: We are a full service publicity and media relations company specializing in heavy metal and hard rock. Basically, the bulk of what we do is promote albums for bands and record labels with the intent of getting the international press to review them, play the tunes on radio, interview the bands, post news, and just about anything else that fits the definition of “media coverage.” That also includes activities like CD giveaways, guest columns, and many others. The idea is to spread the word far and wide; East, West, North, South, up, down, and all around. Can you dig it?
Ryan: On top of that, I would include “anything else within our power.” The majority of the bands and labels we work with are indie and have lives, families, jobs, etc. outside of the music; just as Scott and I do. From that comes an understanding of how hard it to balance everything and how the every little bit of assistance can make things operate more smoothly. While there’s only so much either of us can do in a day, if a band or label needs something outside of the standard parameters of our promotional services, our doors our open. That might anything from the name and contact info for someone we know in a town a band wants to book a show in, to writing a bio, sending your tunes to a label or distro, or whatever else. I feel like anything we can do to help our band/labels out not only benefits them, but expands our horizons as a company as well. I’m really focused at the moment on mastering the ins and outs of design, layout and desktop publishing, and plan to incorporate some of those elements into what we offer. While Clawhammer Integrated Marketing Specialists might not roll off the tongue as well as Clawhammer PR, that’s really a more fitting description of what we’re becoming.
What is the history of ClawHammer PR? Where, when, how and why did you form the company?
Scott: The original idea for a PR company came out of an inebriated conversation on my back patio more than five years ago. In a bitter/sweet turn of events thereafter, the tragic death of Adrian Bromley, who had been doing PR for Ibex Moon Records, resulted in John McEntee contacting us about continuing Adrian’s publicity campaign for John’s releases. We of course obliged, which ultimately led to the full-fledged formation of ClawHammer PR.
Ryan: I don’t think this was ever envisioned to be much more than a part-time gig at first. We jumped into this with the attitude that we’d give it what we had and see where it went. From there, things just snowballed. There was a lot of learning on the fly, growing pains and fuck-ups, but I really feel that’s what allowed us to grow as we have. It’s been very organic. Why did we form ClawHammer? We love music and respect the hell out of the guys and gals that put their blood, sweat, piss, tears and livelihoods into playing it. They deserve to be heard and it’s a cool feeling to have a hand in making that happen.
When an artist solicits your services, what characteristics are positive, in your eyes? What things make your job easier and the album in question easier to promote?
Scott: A PR campaign always works so much better when the band and/or label is dedicated to getting the word out about an album; the same goes with a strong work ethic and a grasp of professionalism. And we can’t stress enough how important it is to get organized and stay that way.
Ryan: What Scott said can’t be repeated enough. Everyone involved in a release has to be on the same page and dedicated to its success if a campaign is going to run smoothly and effectively. That’s not to say we want to minimize our own workload, but when we’re dealing with people that are driven and working together to move things forward, those tend to be the most successful campaigns. It also helps to have your shit together (as a band and an individual).
Why doesn’t ClawHammer start a band and stop doing PR? The name would fit pretty well…! Or at least a label, zine, etc.? Why a PR company?
Scott: Well, for one thing, I can’t play an instrument to save my life, although loose conversations about me yelling indiscriminately into a microphone while Ryan and some friends of ours bludgeoned in the background came up a few times. But that wasn’t the most serious conversation we’ve ever had. Ryan coined the name Rumsfeld Death Squad however if something so far-fetched should ever occur. The main reason for the PR company is that we are fans first and foremost. As such, based on our experiences over the past 10-15 years as journalists (and dealing with a multitude of publicists) we believed that there were many bands and record labels the world over that weren’t getting the exposure they deserved and/or couldn’t afford to pay for professional PR due to budget constraints. We sought to fix that. Very casual discussions about a zine and a label have taken place, but for the most part, the time demands of ClawHammer PR make the chances for that happening slim.
Ryan: Holy shit, I forgot all about Rumsfeld Death Squad! That shit still needs to happen; maybe with an updated name though. Death by Drone, maybe? Drawers Full of Dirty Bombs? I’m open to suggestions. I’ve been playing in a band called Confined In Flesh for the last year. I’d describe us as bullshit free, caveman death metal with elements of black metal, thrash, grind and HC/punk. We’re planning on release something later this year, probably either an EP or 7-inch. Putting my own ‘zine is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time now. Those plans are probably going to sit on the backburner for a while longer, but hopefully I’ll make it happen eventually. The traditional ‘zine and website format is flying out of the window, which leaves a lot of possibilities for something new and unique to pop up. Like Scott said though, ClawHammer is very time consuming and, when you actually enjoy your job, it’s pretty easy to have it carry over to your free time.
What got ClawHammer interested in extreme music in the first place? What are some of your biggest influences, then and now?
Scott: We are both lifelong fans of aggressive music, primarily metal, but our interests run well beyond the extreme realm. It just happens that the first labels we began promoting dealt in extreme music. The influences are too many for me to name. I’m just going to list a bunch that I’ve enjoyed over the years, including vintage Ted Nugent, AC/DC, Overkill, Corrosion of Conformity, Kiss, MC5, Slayer, Black Flag, Rollins Band, Husker Du, Minor Threat, Danzig, Metal Church, Motorhead, Darkthrone, Autopsy, Grave, Malevolent Creation, A18, Blood for Blood, Edguy, The Rockets, Manilla Road, Immortal, Slough Feg, Napalm Death, Cannibal Corpse, Inquisition, Terror, Saxon, Redemption, Jungle Rot, Phobia, The Chasm, Suffocation, Hypocrisy, Immolation, and a wide array of NWOBHM bands. Ah hell, let’s also add Zuul, Pharaoh, Lair of the Minotaur, Bible of the Devil, Superchrist, Dawnbringer, Mourning Beloveth, Kreator, Sodom, Accept…. See, I’m insane and obviously have an unnatural attraction to “lists.” I’m sick, man…sick!
Ryan: I’ve loved metal for as long as I can remember. Like most of us, I got started on KISS, AC/DC, Sabbath and Zeppelin then rode the path to hell from there. My tastes are all over the map and preferred flavors usually change with my mood. The most important quality in music I look out for anymore is that it be played loud enough to drown out the sound of Scott making lists.
What things are often overlooked by artists who solicit your services? What are some of the common mistakes you see bands making that want more exposure?
Scott: Well let’s see; most of our clients have done pretty well with regard to getting with the program. But I’d say the biggest mistakes would be not taking the world of viral marketing and the Internet seriously enough, as well as leaving email interviews unanswered – or returning them with one-sentence answers – or missing phone interviews and things of that sort.
What sets ClawHammer apart from the other PR companies involved in extreme music today? Why?
Scott: I’m never very comfortable with questions like this. Even though I’m 100 percent confident in the value we offer, I feel a little strange about making statements that compare us to other PR companies. So I’ll just state that we go out of our way to be responsive and prompt with regard to customer service in a 24/7 kind of way. I do believe our work ethic and passion for helping bands/labels get exposure is one of our biggest strengths. We also believe strongly in relationship-building. Beyond that, our approach is let our work and the results of it do the talking. Always be wary of shameless self-promoters; it’s been our experience in life and business that there are talkers and there are doers; the phrase “talk is cheap” is most appropriate in this context.
Ryan: I’ve met a lot of people that work in this field and can say with authority that I am a hell of a lot better looking than at least one or two of them. My sex appeal aside, I think the fact that we’re not in New York or LA makes a difference. I think we have a chance to take a breath every now and then and take a fresh perspective on things. I’m not so sure I could do that if I were constantly in the thick of all the shit.
If I recall correctly, ClawHammer only deals with extreme music. Do you ever push material in other genres or mediums, like movies, books or art? Why or why not?
Scott: I can understand why it might seem that way since we do promote a lot of bands and labels that deal only in the extreme realm and began our career in this business with primarily those types of labels, but it is not accurate to state that we only deal in extreme music. For example, clients like Cruz Del Sur Music, Mortal Music, Shadow Kingdom Records, and Ripple Music would in no way be considered purveyors of extreme metal. We’ve promoted (and continue to promote) many bands and labels in the rock and hard rock genres as well. While music is our focus we are not averse to delving into the promotion of other mediums, as exemplified by our work with George Lynch in promoting the fundraising effort for the indie film documentary Shadowtrain: Under a Crooked Sky.
Ryan: Branching out to bands that fall outside the realm of the extreme was one of the best things we could have done for this company. New doors were opened and new relationships were forged. Anytime that happens, it benefits everyone we work with in the long run. On a side note, if any porn starlets are reading this, we’d love to branch out even further.
Share with us a highlight in the history of ClawHammer PR. What moments do you think defined your company or made you feel really good about what you were doing? Why?
Scott: I’ll go with the first one that comes to mind, which would be the promotion of Cryptopsy’s 2012 self-titled album. That was a huge vote of confidence in ClawHammer PR by Flo Mounier who is by far one of the nicest, hardest working, and total professionals with whom we’ve ever dealt. Not only did we get an insane amount of coverage for that album, but it seemed to make a lot of people take notice of ClawHammer PR and our thorough, aggressive, and affordable approach to PR. That effort continues to garner interest in our services from folks that became aware of us through that campaign. In fact, we continue to provide publicity for Cryptopsy, and Flo has been one of our biggest supporters. We’ve gotten business from his kind words alone.
Ryan: Working with George Lynch was definitely a highlight. He came to town for a guitar clinic when I was a kid and I remember thinking how cool it was that this rock star dude would take the time to visit my shitty little town and show us how to shred. At the time, it was a huge inspiration to me as a musician and that feeling came full circle when we hooked up with him for the Shadowtrain gig. The fact that this big rock star dude would hire us really lit a fire under my ass. Aside from that, I’m just stoked that I get to do this for a living and work with so many killer bands.
What about a low point? Was there ever a time when the future of ClawHammer was in question? Why or why not?
Scott: Oh, I’m sure there was but it’s honestly something we spend very little time thinking about, probably because between the two of us we’ve suffered through more than our fair share of dramas, tragedies, and harrowing situations in life and business, so we’ve learned to recover and move on with renewed vigor and strength after climbing back out of the proverbial hole.
How do you feel that technology has changed the way people create, promote and listen to music? Is it all positive, all negative or both? Why?
Scott: It is absolutely essential. In terms of marketing and PR it’s definitely a positive, as well as allowing music that would otherwise remain buried deep underground to reach an international audience. I do love the physical product though. The problem involves the thieves and d-bags that act like they have a right to steal someone’s creation, one that involved hours of work and loads of cash, through Internet piracy. All you need to do is take a look at our client roster to realize that these are folks that survive on extremely tight budgets; every missed sale due to illegal downloading hurts them directly. That’s no exaggeration by any stretch of the imagination.
In closing, give our readers your advice, if you haven’t already, about getting exposed and heard, if you will.
Scott: Just like anything else, it comes down to hard work, dedication, and discipline. It’s the day in, day out work in promoting your band or record label that will separate you from the undisciplined herd. In other words, believe in what you do and then work tirelessly to promote it every single day.
Ryan: Don’t be lazy, delusional or dickheaded. There’s not many obstacles bigger than being difficult to work with.
The last words are yours!
Scott: Thank you sincerely for offering us this interview. We’ve truly enjoyed working with the zine and promoting Forbidden Records releases. You sir, are a doer!
Ryan: Don’t be an asshole, listen to good music and show me your tits. Thanks for the support.