Reflections Records interview

13 10 2008

For years Reflections Records has been my source for hardcore and punk records. They distribute ànd release a great deal of records. Reflections Records has proven to be one of the biggest pillars in the European hardcorescene, by collaborating with Deathwish Records. They constantly provide European kids with the newest US releases, and they help US kids get to know European bands. I decided to pay a small hommage to one of my favorite labels, Reflections Records.

Johan, I don’t think you need an introduction, but for those who might not know you, please tell everyone who you are and what you do.

I’m Johan Prenger, 38 years old, and together with my wife Suzanne and others we run Reflections Records, Monumentum Records and everything that comes with running a label and online-store/distro.

Reflections Records has been around for almost 15 years now. Looking back, did you ever expect things to work out the way they did?

No.. I could’ve never predicted things would turn out the way they did. We have always treated Reflections as something to take in babysteps. We never thought about pumping a ton of money (=loan) into it, or to become a ‘big’ label. However, when I was around 12 or 13 years old, I told my dad that I wanted to do something with music. That it actually came true is already amazing I think.

Were there moments you thought about giving up? What were some of the hardest times?

There have been moments when things aren’t going the way you want them to, and money is in fact ALWAYS tight. But you learn to live with that I guess. I can’t really recall any real hard times to be honest, maybe a few years ago when the Dutch mechanical rights organisation gave us a hard time, wanting us to pay for something we didn’t have to, and we had to prove them that they were the ones who were wrong, and not us. That got us to the government in The Hague even… Not fun.

Right now, Reflections is one of the leading hardcore/punk/indie labels in Europe. What do you think about that?

Well, thanks! Haha, I never really see us that way to be honest. We have always looked at whatever we do as something we’re behind 110%. I guess working hard DOES pay off in the end. We just do whatever we feel is the right thing to do. And we just like what we do.

With well over 50 releases over the years, Reflections Records also seems like one of the more diverse labels out there. Is that a deliberate choice?

Not really. We simply LOVE music. And we have a broad taste. I don’t really see us signing one of those ‘Myspace-metal bands’ where looks are more important than musical skills, but yeah, we like a lot of different stuff!

You recently started another label for metal releases called Monumentum. What made you decide to do that?

Simple: My love for (black) metal! I basicly grew up on metal. When I was 9 years old I discovered Kiss, and through them all the hardrock and metal bands from that time. I simply grew up with hard music and got in touch with punk and hardcore at around 1986 and that really opened my eyes, but my love for metal was never gone. However I don’t see Monumentun as a real metal-label. More as a platform for all music that’s too far away from punk/hardcore to be on Reflections. But I could just as well put some really dark/depressed singer songwriter out on Monumentum as the most grimm Black Metal!

Which one do you like the most?

I couldn’t choose! Haha. I DO have to say that with Black Anvil on Monumentum, it’s one of those bands that are also my best friends, so yeah, that gives a bit of an advantage to Monumentum! Haha, But Reflections is like my… I don’t know…. My “creation’ almost. This is what I do, my life!

Running a label puts you really close to the music. Do you ever feel like you want to start a band yourself?

Yeah, sometimes I think about that, however I can’t play an instrument. Maybe I should pick up that microphone once! Haha.

If you would be in a band, what would it sound like?

Haha… if could REALLY sing I would love to be in a real metal/hardrock band like Rainbow (Dio is the best singer in the world, and I’m a sucker for good singers!) but I guess something insanely pissed off like Negative Approach would be more appropriate!

What is your favorite part about running a record label?

Getting to know all these different people and discovering great bands. I also really like being at a (big) festival or show with our distro. Just hanging out, talking to people I guess!

I assume running something as big as Reflections Records takes a lot of money. Were you afraid of the financial risk involved in this?

No, not really. We never took a loan or something so it’s all our own money that we put into Reflections. It simply grew over the years and it’s still doing great. Of course there were moments when we were thinking: “How the hell are we going to pay for all of this?” but somehow it has always worked out.

You have a little boy on the way. So you’re basically a dad. How will you find a good balance between being a father and a label owner?

Well, our boy hasn’t even been born yet! Hahaha, give it 5 or 6 weeks and then, when all goes well hopefully, I will have a son indeed! And yeah, I expect it to be a LOT of work but at the same time can’t I imagine anything else being SO freaking cool! Haha. And I’m sure it will balance out all by itself. It simply has to!

A lot of people think running a label is a sure way to make money without having to work very hard. Are you able to live off of the money you make with Reflections?

Hahaha, I don’t know who thinks that way, but let me tell them otherwise! When we decided to do this full time, and when I gave up my day job 6 or 7 years ago, I’ve been working 60+ hours a week for WAY less than minumum wage. Just the last 2 years have I cut down on the working hours a bit but it’s still at least 40-45 hours a week and even though the money is a little better now, I would make way more with a normal job. However, I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world! Because Suzanne, my wife, has a normal job for 4 days a week as well, we’re able to get by but that’s about it. You’ll never ever (especially not in these times where downloading is so common) make a lot of money when running a label!

In the current hardcore scene, it seems hardcorebands are popping out all over the place. How do you determine which band is a band for Reflections Records?

Three things:

Be fucking amazing both recorded and live.

Be willing to tour and work your asses off.

Be cool dudes!

What’s the budget for the average release? How much does it cost to make a record?

Oh, that totally depends on the band. Some bands are already quite popular, so you know their records will sell quite well. A band like NO TURNING BACK tours fulltime so you know people will buy their records and the band will get attention. They have a bigger budget than a new band who just got started. But it all differs. I’d say the average budget (including recording, production, promotion etc) is around 5000/6000 euro per release.

I assume the head of a record label also has a pretty big collection of records himself. What is your favourite record you own?

Not one particular record, but my Pushead/Bacteria Sour collection is pretty precious to me ( I collect ANYTHING Pushead related, if you got any, please get in touch!) but also my Lärm –Straight On View LP or my Thrash Metal collection from the 80’s (I think I dare to say I have all the relevant records from that 1984-1988 period).

If you could choose one band, past or present and any genre to sign to Reflections Records, which band would it be?

Can I name a few? Hell.. here’s some bands I would’ve LOVED to do a record with:

Minor Threat

Led Zeppelin

Youth Of Today

Rainbow, or fuck it.. anything with Ronnie James Dio!

Nirvana (not that I like ‘m, but that would’ve generated enough money to release ANYTHING else I wanted! Haha.

One last question, tell me something about Reflections Records you haven’t told anyone yet.

We love Oasis – What’s The Story Morning Glory and we do a Satanic Ritual before the workday starts! (well, the first thing is true actually!)


Thanks to Johan and everyone at Reflections Records. Props to him for taking the time to answer my questions.

Available now on Reflections Records: Trash Talk – st CD/LP, Paint It Black – New Lexicon CD, Cursed – III CD/LP, No Turning Back – Stronger CD/LP, and much much more…

Reflections Records website




One response

16 10 2008

Reflections and Johan rule. Who would have expected the label to become so well known when they released those youth crew compilations back in 97.

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