Interview with Mike Juliano (Horror, Pain, Gore, Death Pro.)

Mike Juliano runs a great underground record label called HPGD (Horror Pain Gore Death) Productions out of Phila, PA. Here is a chat I recently did with him to find out all about his record label:

Where were you born and where did you grow up?

MJ: I was born in Northeast Philadelphia, when I was 7 I moved to Ardmore (West Philly suburbs) and grew up there through high school. Then I moved back to the Northeast and have been living in Mayfair since then (2001)

What sort of kid were you growing up and what did you want to be when you were growing up?

MJ: I was a pretty good kid who didn’t get into too much trouble haha I had always been heavily into horror movies, when I was in elementary school I started getting into underground metal. The movie Traces Of Death III had a soundtrack put out by Nuclear Blast/Relapse and it introduced me to a lot of excellent bands. Also, Rock Video Monthly which was a VHS collection of music videos introduced me to other underground bands like Dismember (this was 1995, I was born in 1983)

Were you interested in listening to a lot of music at an early age or did that come later on? Did you listen to the radio much?

MJ: I was listening to music from an early age, I remember getting a Madonna LP from my uncle when I was 4, then got a bunch of Madonna cassettes the following year (my 1st music purchase). I didn’t have anyone in my family who was into metal really but as I got a little older I was interested in going beyond the pop/rock radio stuff.

Did you have any desire to ever pick up an instrument or manage a band?

MJ: I started playing guitar while in high school and formed a band called Hardgore. I am a lefty and self-taught, I still play all the time but just for fun these days. The last band I recorded was my one-man project Mental Funeral, I liked to help bands and people out but as far as being a manager it doesn’t appeal to me as much as running a label. My goal is to help bands grow and sign to larger labels

Did you ever have any desire to do any writing at all in your life?

MJ: When I was younger I used to enjoy writing a lot, but over the years I haven’t been motivated to do that. I went to film school at Temple University and focused on editing, I’d love to get more into film/video production eventually.

Mike HPGD Productions
Mike HPGD Productions

Now what were the first styles of music that you got into? Are you still into any of those bands these days?

MJ: Pop, rock, dance, and gangsta rap… I’m still into all of those genres but mostly stuff from the original era of the 80s/90s. I try to give some new things a chance but when it comes to those genres it’s really a product of the time

When did you discover metal music in general? Did a friend show you his music collection, something you saw on TV or was it on the internet you discovered? Are you still into any of these bands these days and who were some of your favorites?

MJ: Beyond the radio metal of Metallica’s Black Album, I remember hearing White Zombie’s Thunderkiss 65 during the opening credits of ECW (wrestling). I started buying music from a local record shop called Plastic Fantastic around this time

Now how did you discover the underground side of metal? Did you like it right away or did it take a few listens to totally grasp it? What were some of the first bands you heard and did you like all the bands or just some?

MJ: Watching Traces Of Death III did it for me. I had rented the VHS and the soundtrack was so brutal, different, and not like anything I had heard before. It really was like opening the door into a new world of music. I always listen to the classic bands that made me diehard. Discovering bands like Autopsy, Broken Hope, Cancer, Dismember… I wasn’t familiar with where they were from, or what style of Death Metal they were (this was 1995 so finding info on bands was way more difficult). I didn’t like everything heavy and quickly as time went on I realized I don’t like everything heavy

Now with underground metal, were you like me, and were you like a kid in a candy store, where you just couldn’t get enough and you wanted and needed more?

MJ: I was a fiend… it was much harder to find things back then, I used to order regularly from the Relapse catalog and get lots of distro titles. I still have all the CD’s I bought from back in the day, and back then I would take more chances and order things blindly. These days it’s much different because of YouTube and Bandcamp, you can listen to everything right away. I miss the days of having to wait for something and then give it a full proper listen.

Now you mentioned ECW, which for those who don’t know was a great and sometimes violent wrestling group that is sadly no longer around and they were based out of Phila, PA. Did you get to ever see ECW live?

MJ: I actually was lucky enough to see ECW live throughout almost the entire promotion run. I remember seeing ECW first on Sports Channel Philadelphia in the fall of 1993. At that time it was still Eastern Championship Wrestling but they did have some hardcore stuff going at that time. In May of 1994, I went to my first ECW live event with my Dad and went until the company closed down in 2001. ECW ran shows at the ECW Arena every month until around 99, so I was spoiled by all of the violence, bloodshed, and extreme wrestling that so many companies tried to emulate.

What was the 1st arena show you went to and what are your memories still about it these days?

MJ: The 1st show I went to was When Worlds Collide in May of 1994… Sabu stood out to me from this show. As I mentioned before it was still Eastern Championship Wrestling at this point so there were only a few moments of hardcore wrestling per show. But that summer was Heatwave 94 which featured a no-rope barbed-wire match between Terry/Dory Funk and the Public Enemy. This match was wild and featured the original chair-throwing incident, wild times. Over the years there were so many classical moments, 1995 was really the most violent and revolutionary time.

(ECW was totally awesome and I also went to all those ECW arenas shows, you can find quite bit of ECW clips on YouTube these days, just type in ecw wrestling in “search” -Chris)

What was the 1st club show you went to and what are some of your memories of that?

MJ: I’m trying to remember the 1st club show that I went to, it was probably Gwar at the Electric Factory or something at the Troc. Being underage I couldn’t get into so many places back in the mid-late 90s. I remember traveling to Birchill Nite Club and Club Krome in NJ for all ages sometimes. It was a strange and different time for metal back then, I was really excited to see a lot of bands live and most of them delivered. The March Metal Meltdown in Asbury Park was an awesome fest and I remember those fondly

How far have you been out of Phila, PA for a concert? Have you ever been on the road with a band for say a week or so?

MJ: I actually spent two weeks in Tokyo Japan on vacation back in February of 2020 (this was a few weeks covid). I went to three shows at the club Earthdom, a punk show, a grind show, and a death metal show. Seeing Coffins in Tokyo was amazing, and I would love to back to Japan again. I also went to two wrestling events at Korauken Hall which is a legendary wrestling arena much like the ECW Arena.
I have not been on the road with a band actually, just some weekend tours with my old band back in the day

Have you ever had thoughts of doing any kind of writing over the years? Before you started up the label, what were some of the mags you read to get more info on the bands you loved?

MJ: I have thought about it… I feel like I would be too honest and not complimentary enough to a lot of newer things haha but it would be a lot of fun to have a column. I used to read Metal Maniacs and Terrorizer back in the day, I still have a lot of old issues. Reading the thanks list in CD booklets was another way that I found out about new bands. And of course the old Relapse Resound catalog

What did you think of the Phila, PA metal scene throughout the years and what were some of the many clubs you attended shows at?

MJ: I love Philly… I’ve seen the progression and change in the city over the past 25 years of going to shows. Over the past 7 years, it seems like things have really picked up with more shows being booked. Back in the day, I remember it being really difficult for all ages shows. Philly traditionally seemed more like a punk/hardcore city when I was growing up. I went to Stalag 13 and the Killtime which were West Philly warehouses, they would book all kinds of stuff… Lethal Aggression there was awesome. I wasn’t a big fan of the Troc or TLA as time went on. I preferred places like Millcreek Tavern and JR’s Bar (RIP). I was at Kung Fu Necktie back in 2008 I believe when they had just opened to see Deceased. Now Kung Fu is one of the more trendy places for shows, there are almost too many shows in Philly right now. Some other spots that stand out for me are the Golden Tea House, First Unitarian Church, and Century Bar. A few years ago I was going to 2 shows a week on average, so I’ve been lucky enough to see just about every band that has toured through Philly. For me, it’s usually been bands like Divine Eve, Witchtrap, etc that stand out, not necessarily the bigger/heavy hitter bands

Before starting up your label, what were some of your favorite labels you brought stuff from?

MJ: When I started buying underground releases it was mostly via the Relapse Records catalog. They carried just about every label you could think of and back in 1996 it was pre-internet buying. Osmose, Metal Blade, Nuclear Blast, Roadrunner, Earache, Peaceville, Razorback… I have a huge CD collection and was a friend back then.

So as of 2022, how long have you been involved/liked underground metal music?

MJ: I’ll be 40 next year (yikes!) and first delved into underground metal in the summer of 1995. So a little over 27 years now listening, and the roots of the label started back in 2005 with the HPGD DVD series, and trading with labels (17 years). I officially launched HPGD as a full label in October of 2008 (14 years).

I wanna backtrack a bit. Now you went to 3 shows in Japan. How were the grounds for the 3 shows? What is the biggest difference you would say in audiences? Did you do any record shopping while there?

MJ: The venue Earthdom was in the middle of the Korean section of Tokyo, it took a while to find it. Inside the club was a decent size compared to the smaller clubs shown in Philly. The bar was in a separate room and the room was very thin and long. The first thing I noticed was that people were very reserved early in the night.

Going to three different shows there were different types of crowds, the punk crowd was older. The grind crowd was a mixed bag of people and more energetic. I loved seeing Coffins and was acting like a maniac, at one point one of the other bands commented about me as ‘gaijin’ which is a term for an outsider. As the nights progressed people did open up and become more aggressive but the crowd was way more respectful in general. I loved the atmosphere and appreciation. This was the same with the wrestling events.

I did a lot of record shopping, I spent around $500 on vinyl. They actually had quite a few HPGD releases in stores which were really cool to see. I posted a video of my record shopping on Instagram actually, they had a great selection and excellent prices.

Now what was the first music arena show you went to back in the day?

MJ: Ozzfest 98 was the first big arena show that I went to… Slayer/Pantera/Morbid Angel is another one that sticks out to me which I think was 2000. I prefer smaller shows vs. stadiums but have seen some big stuff like the Rolling Stones and Kiss

Do you like any sports teams out of Phila?

MJ: I used to big a big Flyers fan growing up, and went to a Stanley Cup finals game in 97 (they did not win). As I got older I stopped following sports

Now what were some early jobs you had this is pre label days?

MJ: I worked as a caddy at a golf course, a bus boy at a restaurant, a stock boy at Super Fresh, selling horror/wrestling videos online, and sales at Sam Goody. I worked at Sam Goody from 99-2003 and used to always special order out-of-print metal titles that were ‘deleted’. But most of the time they would be sent to the store and I would pay 1 penny for them. I got a lot of Black Mark titles, Nuclear Blast, Century Media, etc. It was a fun job

Now around what year did you start to toy around with starting your own label? Did you work for or help out any labels prior to starting your own?

MJ: Before I had the idea to start the label, I had graduated college with a degree in film and video production (focus on editing). While looking for work in that field I decided to use my skills and I revisited a concept that I had when I first got into metal in the mid-90s. I would take horror films and edit the death scenes to metal songs. I had done this with a very primitive setup of two VCRs and a portable CD player in 1995/1996, but it was much more precise and accurate with digital editing in 2005 when I graduated.

I ended up editing together 68 videos that I would sell on 4 DVDs, with the title “Horror Pain Gore Death Productions: Volume x”. MTV actually posted an article on the videos for Halloween, and during this time I was reaching out to labels to carry these. I ended up trading with places like Hells Headbangers and Relapse, along with a few horror companies. The last volume of these DVDs came out in late 2006.

I ended up starting the label in the spring/summer of 2008. I had a few bands that I was friends with that were looking to release music, and I wanted to release my own project Mental Funeral. Ex Dementia and Lethal Aggression were the first bands I worked with that summer and the official announcement of the label came in October of 2008. I didn’t have plans to do much more than a few projects, but quickly one thing led to another. I was trading with labels from around the world (I spent around $20000 in shipping alone during the first 2 years of the label) and really got the name out there. It was a different climate back in 2008 and sadly many of the labels I was in contact with are no longer going.

I never worked for other labels, 2010 I ended up getting hired by Relapse Records and still work for Relapse currently.

Now once you had the idea that this is is I’m gonna do this, did you seek out and talk to other people that had labels about the do’s and the don’t you should do going forward with it?

MJ: It was a lot of trial and error, and also pricing out things early on. I asked a few people I knew in the business questions but trying out different CD plants, vinyl plants, merch companies, etc was really the key. At first, I was selling 7″s for $4 each and would actually lose money on international orders. It’s things like that where you have to experience it to learn and improve from it. I always tell people that I have learned more about what not to do than what to do by paying attention to other labels

How long did it take from the idea of the label to actually having a release in your hands?

MJ: About 5 months from when I wanted to start the label, but I had already had the DVD’s out for 2 and a half years so that really made it a lot easier

How did you come up with the name for your label and were any other label names thrown around?

MJ: The name originally comes from the back of a Repulsion t-shirt, and when I was editing the horror music videos it just fit perfectly. Starting the label I had planned on releasing mostly Death Metal so the name fit perfectly for that too. Over the years I have released just about every metal genre, the acronym HPGD I use more these days than saying the full name of the label. Never had another idea for a name though, maybe I should have and the label would be more welcomed by some haha.

So you mentioned working at Relapse Records. What do you do there I imagine the experience working there has been invaluable when it comes to your label?

MJ: I started working for Relapse back in September of 2010 in the warehouse packing orders, but quickly transitioned into sales/customer service. I wear many hats with the company: sales, band orders, inventory management, webmaster, accounting, customer service, A&R, etc. just about everything except for press and production.

I’ve learned a lot when it comes to how to run and structure a record label, but I’ve also learned what not to do which can sometimes be more valuable.

So now here we are, you have a name for the label, now did you have a band in mind that you wanted to work with? Was it hard to convince them to have you put their next release or debut release out?

MJ: Lethal Aggression was the 1st band I wanted to work with. I had always loved them and knew John for a long time (RIP). I never thought he would be on board with a new label but we really worked together hard on that release. I’m really proud and appreciate that someone who had been involved with music since the early 80s saw something in HPGD and myself. Coffins were another band I wanted to work with ever since I saw them live. There have been very few bands that I was not able to release, and it’s been an honor to work with legends like Deceased and Master.

Mike Juiliano
Mike Juiliano

Now do you actually sign bands or is it a handshake type of deal? Is it for just that actual release only?

MJ: I have different types of deals with different bands, but my whole goal with HPGD is to give exposure to a band, help them grow, and have them sign to a larger label. I usually release on CD only but occasionally do vinyl, so I encourage bands to try to find a label to press the release on vinyl. I like to work with people who have a good attitude and are really passionate about the music they are making.

Now what was your actual 1st release? What formats did it come out in? How did you go about promoting it at the time? Looking back what are your overall feeling on this release?

MJ: The first release that was planned was the Mental Funeral/Generichrist Split 7″ in 2008. This did not end up coming out until 2009 though, so the first official release was Ex Dementia – In The Chapters Of Horror CD.

For promotion this was back during the Myspace days, so there was a lot of online promo going on. I also printed up postcards for all the early HPGD releases and would send them in orders and bring them to shows.

The release went over very well I thought and I was able to get a lot of distribution by trading with labels both in the US and overseas. At this point I didn’t plan on HPGD to be a routine, monthly release schedule deal. So I was really just treating each release as if it might be the last, so why not go all in?

After having a few releases out, did bands start sending you stuff in the hopes of working with you?

MJ: After 6 months or so I did have a lot of bands reach out and send demos for releases. I was also scouting bands and listening to as much music as I could back then. This was before Bandcamp and the main way I would find out about bands outside of the USA was from trading with other labels. I was lucky enough to work with bands that would recommend HPGD to other bands, and really endorsed the label as a legit underground entity.

Are you the only one that works at the label? If not do you have people who help you from time to time? How much time in any given week is spent doing label-related things?

MJ: I am the only one… I had thought about working with one or two other people in the past, but I like to keep my vision uncompromised and really have things run smoothly and consistently. I deal with all aspects from production, to design, to sales, promotion… it’s great to learn all aspects of the business to keep up to date with technology and stay competitive with visibility. I just recently launched a new website actually with new features and improvements:

It’s rare that I actually take a full day off from HPGD, I’m either emailing someone, packing orders, working on a pre-order, etc. Some weeks are less busy than others but between a full-time job at Relapse and running HPGD the rest of the time, I only have a few hours free each week. I love it and wouldn’t change anything

Who ended up designing your label logo and actual website or did you do one or the other?

MJ: Good question! Branden from Ex Dementia designed the logo for me and did an excellent job. I can’t imagine another logo, and it’s perfect for stickers.

I built the original HPGD website which was very primitive by today’s standards but worked well at that time. I always have enjoyed building websites and web design so it was a fun project, and over time I really advanced and evolved the presentation.

Have you ever gone to any time of “metalfests” and gotten a booth to sell merchandise?

MJ: I ended the 1st two Hostile City Deathfests in Philly, and a few shows here and there during the early years of the label. With Relapse I would always vend at Maryland Deathfest and usually bring some HPGD releases to sell there. In 2017 I got my own HPGD booth at Maryland Deathfest which was the record release show for the Birdflesh/Organ Dealer split (both bands were playing the day of the release date).

I’d love to vend more fests one day but for now, all my focus is on running the label

Now take me through when you get all set up working with a band until the very end of the release and it’s out and the promotion you do for it?

MJ: The first step when I start working with a band is going over the details of the release and if they have a time frame they would like to have it out by. These days I’m booked 4+ months in advance with releases, but I try to always make sure I have a release out around a band’s show if possible. Some projects can take years but most of the time I talk to bands when they are in the studio or are already finished recording.

Once we go over all those details, I set a pre-order date, official release date and come out with a schedule for press/promotion. I typically release a single track when the pre-order is announced and then another track halfway through the pre-order. I like to use a 1 month period between the pre-order announcement and release date, sometimes a week or two longer but never months out. I try to get a track premiere or full album stream with most releases, and if the band is on board with doing interviews that’s always something great. Each band has a different mentality and some are super active with promotion, while others are more low key. It’s always awesome to have an ambitious band who wants to hype up the release and put in just as much work as the label.

I ship out pre-orders 1-2 weeks before the release date. The main reason I am not doing vinyl currently is that most plants are backed up for around 1 year with turn times. CDs I can have pressed within a few weeks, and I prepare ahead of time so usually have the release in hand a few days after the pre-order is announced.

Once officially release I continue to feature it for months, which is something I’ve noticed other labels don’t do a very good job on. I’ve actually had a few bands tell me that their experience with the way I promote after an album is out makes a huge difference. I encourage bands to play as many shows as they can and keep the hype up about the release, it really is a 50/50 mentality when it comes to making the most of something, these days a lot of people don’t follow labels like they did a few years. There’s much more focus on individual bands and social media, but I do feel like HPGD is a stamp of approval in many ways much like back in the day

Now have any bands over the years slipped through your fingers so to speak that went on to have become a pretty big underground band?

MJ: I have had a few bands that I’ve turned down working with going on to sign with big labels. I don’t believe a band has turned down an offer I’ve presented and gone on though… the one rule I have for HPGD is to not release something that I personally don’t like. It might not be the best business strategy but it keeps the integrity of the label and for me, it’s been quality over quantity. Sometimes I will release a band that is very different from HPGD and doesn’t sell well, but I consider it to be a success musically and an excellent representation of what an HPGD band should be.

As I mentioned before, my main goal is to help grow a band and have them sign to a larger label. No/Mas are a prime example of a band that has grown so much since our first release together, and put in work with touring. Whenever a band works with another label I’m happy for them and their success

Over the years have there been any releases that have really surprised you due to lack of sales or on the other side of the coin sales that went through the roof and you quickly had to do a re-press of the release?

MJ: There have been a few in both directions. With brand new bands it’s sometimes harder to introduce people to vs. a band that has a few releases out already. I’ve definitely had more releases take time to catch on rather than sell out quickly haha I wish it was the other way around.

I’ve been altering pressing #s of releases to lower amounts these days also. The vinyl boom is still going but there’s a loyal dedicated CD fan base still out there, but I have to be careful not to press too much of something and sit on it for years.

Without naming names if you want, have any bands been real assholes to work with over a release you did with them?

MJ: Not really… working with over 300 bands it’s only been 2 or 3 that were difficult, and that was after a release was out. And all stem from a band member leaving, the band wanting the release taken down, etc. things like

Are most of your releases sold out these days or do you have a few copies of most? What is the initial run you do when a release comes out? I imagine that has changed seeing out when you were starting out you didn’t have bandcamp and as much downloading as you do these days?

MJ: I actually just went through the back stock and inventory while building the new shop site. Out of 280 releases, 104 are completely sold out. There are many that have 1 or 2 copies left only.

Usually, 300 copies right now is the sweet spot. If a band is more active I will do a 500 press. For newer bands I have been doing limited to 100 runs which have been going well, I used to press 500 of every release, all the time. Around 2018 I started thinking about smaller runs as there was definitely a shift in CD buying. There’s an awesome old-school audience that still buys CDs, but the average music fan streams on Spotify or iTunes these days… I don’t think it hurts CD sales as much as people think though. If anyone finds out about a new band, it can only help.

Have you any many problems with overseas labels when it comes to trading? I also imagine that has become a pain in the ass due to insane postage rates these days?

MJ: I got ripped off by a few labels during the early years when I was trading a lot. I mentioned this earlier but for the 1st three years of the label I really wanted to get the name out there so I would trade internationally with pretty much every label I could find. I racked up around $20000 in shipping costs (which would be probably double now).

I don’t trade anymore unless it’s something I want for my personal collection. I feel bad that international shipping is so expensive, and I usually take a loss of $1-2 on shipping costs for CD sales so the customer can pay less. My mentality is that they will come back and support the label if you take care of them.

For the new shop website, I actually am now offering shipping without cases to lower shipping costs for international orders. I used to do this with trades and it really makes a huge difference in postage. 4-6 CDs can be shipped for the price of 1.

Did you think here we are about to go into 2023 that you would still be doing the label?

MJ: Not at the beginning haha I would say it was 2013, almost 5 years into the label, when I said to myself I will keep putting things out until I can’t anymore. I’m very lucky that over the years people seem to be getting into the stuff I’m putting out more and more. HPGD used to be a label that had weird reactions when mentioned to some: too dirty, not PC enough, etc. but now it seems like there is an interest in the more underground stuff. As time goes on I think people go beyond the gateways bands and cookie-cutter shit and start peeling back layers into the real stuff. I’ve been trying to slow down each year, a little bit at least, but it never works out that way haha too much good music out there not to be a part of

Where did you get your stuff pressed and do you use the same place?

MJ: I use different plants for different projects, but I work with a place in MN most of the time for CDs. For vinyl, I’ve gone to many plants both in the US and internationally… I’m really proud of the vinyl releases I’ve done and it’s a shame that the plants are so backed up and so expensive right now. 7″s have become way too expensive to manufacture and I can’t justify anyone paying $10 for a 7″. I used to sell them for $4 each during 2009, kind of crazy how much the economy has changed from then til now. But let’s not get into that!

So over the years what are some of your favorite shows you have seen and some bands that disappointed you over the years seeing them live?

MJ: There have been so many shows that really stand out to me over the years… the March Metal Meltdown fests in Asbury Park were awesome in the late 90s/early 2000s. Lethal Aggression at Stalag 13 which was an awesome warehouse like Killtime. Lots of shows at the First Unitarian church in the early 2000s, Maryland Deathfests at Sonar were awesome. Autopsy reuniting in 2010 and playing MDF was incredible.

Aside from a lot of local bands who play over and over again, I can’t really think of any bands that really disappointed me. Maybe a few black metal bands.

So take me through a typical day you go through.

MJ: I try to keep a pretty good schedule with the label, but I start my day off packing orders and checking emails. Throughout the day, I’ll schedule posts, follow up with bands for releases, etc. I send out a weekly newsletter every Friday, and lately, it’s been a new release going up for pre-order every 2 weeks. I use the weekends when I am off from my day job to do more intensive stuff like layout design

Once the label ends, what would you like it to be known by and what for?

MJ: Excellent question… if the label were to end tomorrow I’d like people to remember HPGD as a consistent label that unleashed some of the underground hidden gems, and differentiated itself from other labels

What would be a couple of things about you that might surprise people?

MJ: I’m a big wrestling fan, I’m left-handed (and play guitar lefty), and I’m not really much of a weed smoker.

When you’re not listening to metal, what are some other forms of music you like?

MJ: I used to start my day by listening to a gangsta rap album every morning. Working in metal is amazing, but it’s good to change it up and clear your mind/mentally. I love 80s/90s dance, pop, and alternative… nu metal is one genre that I absolutely can’t stand though.

What are some things you like to do when you’re not doing music-related things?

MJ: I like to travel, cook/try new foods, go to wrestling events, watch a lot of movies, try new beers/breweries, etc. I’m actually a pretty low-key guy and like to relax at home when I’m not going to a show.

How much longer would you like to see the label go for? Could you see yourself not doing it one day?

MJ: I plan on keeping this going for as long as I have my passion and energy. I don’t think there will be a shortage of bands I want to work with and I feel like I have a loyal audience that follows HPGD on the regular. Instead of shutting down the label eventually, I’d like to scale back to maybe a few releases a year only.

Advice for someone wanting to up a label?

MJ: Don’t do it! haha no, I think if you have a passion and the time to dedicate then go for it full force. It should be for the love of metal and not for profit, it’s a very hard business and not for everyone

What do you think of bootlegs? Have you ever brought any? What would do if you came across a bootleg of one of your releases?

MJ: Back in the day there were lots of bootlegs that I bought because original pressings were hard to find or super expensive. I prefer officially reissued titles that are done the proper way and high quality. I haven’t had anyone bootleg an HPGD release yet but I would reach out in private and handle the situation.

Genres music time. Tell me your thoughts on:

Thrash metal?
-I love 80s/early 90s thrash and some of my favorite albums fall into this genre. Not really a fan of groove-oriented thrash or more modern stuff.

Death metal?
-Probably my favorite metal genre. It’s trendy for hardcore kids to play Death Metal these days, but during the mid 90s I bought more Death Metal than anything else. There are so many classifications of Death Metal styles these days, but everyone is playing throwback old-school Death Metal for a reason. I love the formative days of early Death Metal from the 80s, and early 90s Death Metal has to be my favorite period.

Black metal?

-I’m really picky with Black Metal…I’m not into ambient stuff. I like the more punky, raw Black Metal. Riffs are always the most important element for me.

Numetal (ha ha):?

– haha the absolute worst genre! When I was in high school it was the peak of that shit and it would get me so mad. I think nu-metal helped me dig way deeper into the underground to cleanse my ears of the nonsense everyone was into. It’s kind of funny these days that Nu Metal is a cool thing to like again. Let it rot haha.

CF: Please plug any social media sites you have Mike and the label’s website.


HPGD Official Website:

HPGD Online Store:

HPGD on BandCamp:

HPGD on Facebook:

HPGD on Spotify:

HPGD on Twitter:

HPGD on YouTube:

Personal Facebook:

Before we end this interview, tell me a bit about this band you were/are in. What is the name of it? What do you do in it? Is the band still together?

MJ: The last project I recorded was my one-man band Mental Funeral. For years I had always wanted to play music in the style of Autopsy, but the bands I was in had different styles blended in. My 1st band was called Hardgore and was Death/Thrash Metal, formed in 1998 and broke up in 2003. We played some shows in PA/NJ and it was a fun time but as time went on my heart just wasn’t in it. Before Hardgore broke up I started writing the riffs that I really wanted to for a new project, which turned into Mental Funeral.

I tried to find band members early on but then decided that I might as well record everything on my own with a drum machine, then try to get live members. I recorded the music in January of 2005 and ended up sitting on the release until I started HPGD. I was never a lead vocalist and was very critical of myself. I ended up laying vocals down in 2008 and this became one of the first HPGD releases. Lots of people have no idea that this band is me haha listen here –

Mike many thanks for doing this great interview and horns up always. Hope the label stays strong for many years to come. Any last words to wrap it up?

MJ: Thank you Chris! This was really fun to do and thanks for your dedication to the metal scene for all of these years. I want to thank everyone who still buys physical releases and is passionate about music. Looking back on the last 14 years I can say that I’m very lucky to work with so many awesome bands. Cheers to the diehards and the real ones!

Chris Forbes and Mike Juliaano
Chris Forbes and Mike Juliaano

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