The American underground label named Regimental Records is one of those marvelous creations whose releases have inspired me greatly over the past twenty years, and I figured it was about time I reached out to its founder, Joe Hatrak, in order to learn more about its history, what the future holds for the label, and why cassette tapes rule. While the company primarily specializes in raw black metal, atmospheric death metal, and face-melting thrash metal, a number of dark ambient records and experimental outputs have also been unearthed and given a proper release by these guys. With its interesting roster, excellent discography, and passionate approach to all things dark, Regimental Records is all about quality music and more than worthy of your attention, so check it out.
For those readers who may not be familiar with Regimental Records, could you briefly tell us a bit about its history and how and why it came into being?
JH: Regimental Records is a label and distro based in New Jersey, USA. The name was picked based on my interest in military history.
The label never ceased to exist as such, but it was more or less on hold for a few years, right? Did you miss working on various releases, distributing them, and generally just doing the day-to-day activities that come with owning a record label of one’s own? What prompted you to re-activate Regimental Records?
JH: Yes, Regimental did not stop, but I did go on a hiatus for some time. The International shipping rates went through the roof and the distro got slow. I was still slightly active and released the DISPERSER, SYN, and GERSEY DEOFUL cassette releases (DIY style, home dubbed, photocopied covers, etc.). Life kind of got in the way, but I was always creating music, buying, listening, and well as being submerged into the scene. But I just missed doing the label. When I started the Regimental Instagram people were thrilled. The support has been unreal, and many people have Regimental stories or favourite releases. It is humbling.
What spurred you on to launch the label back in the day? Was there a certain event, a musical revelation, or perhaps a flash of inspiration that made you go “Fuck yeah, this is what I want to spend my time doing. I want to launch a record label of my own and release quality underground music”?
JH: Regimental Records was started all because of one band, WARLUST. At the time I was the metal buyer and manager of the East Coast’s largest record store, Vintage Vinyl. I was familiar with labels, wholesale, all the in and outs of the business. I had heard The Final War from WARLUST and said, “Why isn’t this band huge?” My girlfriend at the time, now my wife, simply said, “Why don’t you start a label and release it?” It is as easy as that.
Do you recall how, when, and where you were introduced to heavy metal music and its many subgenres? Given that Regimental Records primarily release stuff that relates to black metal, death metal, and dark ambient, perhaps you could touch on why those genres in particular appeal to you and perhaps also what some of your all-time favourite albums associated with said genres are?
JH: I remember it like yesterday: my parents were separated, and I was sitting at my dad’s house in front of the large stereo unit, speakers taller than me as I sat on the floor. My dad put on BLACK SABBATH Black Sabbath. I was holding the LP and was sucked in. The artwork, the sounds of the thunder and rain, the bells, and then the music starts. It was scary, exciting, and mind-blowing. I was hooked instantly.
Black metal to me is my favourite genre. There is something about the ferociousness that appeals to me. The raw primal stuff speaks directly to me. My favourites would be (old) SAMAEL, TIAMAT, DODHEIMSGARD, TULUS, KVIST, and FORGOTTEN WOODS. When I listen to music I see it, as a musician I visualize every part. I see the parts in colors, but I use colors a lot in my mind to remember things.
Dark ambient [music] takes the visuals away and it is just more meditative for me. Some of my favourites would be MORTIIS, APOPTOSE, PICTURE ANN, and DEPRESSIVE SILENCE.
Death metal was a genre that came first for me, then I morphed into black metal. I believe at that time death metal was more accessible. Mind you this was before Napster, file sharing, and YouTube. Bands like CARCASS, DEICIDE, GOREFEST, and OBITUARY still get heavy rotation here. Again, it was the aggression that drew me in.
Tell us a bit about what formats you prefer. No, scratch that, what I really want to know is why you are so fond of cassette tapes and why you consider that a cool format.
JH: Haha! I do love the cassette format. Cassette tapes are where it all started for me. I am old enough to remember before CDs were readily available. You would go to the music shop and there was vinyl and cassette. But cassettes were the convenient format back then. The Walkman was out, and you could take music with you. I guess I’m just nostalgic towards that. I remember biking to the store and buying MEGADETH So Far, So Good, So What on cassette. That was my first solo purchase.
I love the cassette sound. The whirl of the tape spinning on the reels and the tape heads. I can’t explain it, but to me, it adds to the experience, the sound, the vibe. Back in the day when I would be drumming, a cassette never skipped like CDs did with my drums nearby. And forget playing along to a turntable! I’ve tried, and it was always a nightmare.
You are insanely active yourself with respect to playing in bands and recording music and whatnot, and as you know, I am a huge fan of SYN, Gersey Deoful, Disperser, and Nethermost Caverns. Could you give us the low-down on those outfits and whether there is new music in the pipeline from one or more of them?
JH: Thanks for the kind words. SYN, GERSEY DEOFUL, and NETHERMOST CAVERNS currently have new releases out now, all on multiple formats.
SYN will be recording two tracks for a 7’ EP that will be coming out. The release will be called Warsaw Saw War dealing with the bombings of Warsaw in WW2. Also, we plan to record a cover of the track ‘Kommissriat’ by the Polish band, 1984.
GERSEY DEOFUL has a ton of music already written and we will start sorting through songs that we will record for the next release. A few of the tracks were on the Autumnal Emanation rehearsal demo. The Gersey Deoful CD now has a cassette version released on Undercroft Distro from the UK.
NETHERMOST CAVERNS released Ancient Spells within a Stalagnate Crypt on Regimental Records that came with an embroidered patch. Banner of Blood just released it on cassette and did a brilliant job on the release!
DISPERSER is quiet these days. Everyone is busy with other projects, but something may start back up one day.
Besides those projects, ETERNAL TOMB just had a split cassette release with GEIST OF OUACHITA on Signal Rex. SIGNALFEIDE has a cassette coming out, plus some new material in the works.
There are three new projects called WICHT, DODSULVER, and GOATDӦZER. We have recorded a few tracks already for both bands. I hope to have those releases out before the end of the year.
I get a lot of people that want me to play drums on their recordings. So hopefully I can manage to get some additional releases out this year.
What does 2023 hold for Regimental Records and what projects are you currently working on? What wicked and atmospheric releases can we look forward to this year?
JH: Regimental just released MAGNA CORPOREA from Argentina on CD. Raw black metal that created quite the chilling atmosphere. CHRISTBANE was also just released on CD. Incredible two-piece band from Australia and Canada. As mentioned above the NETHERMOST CAVERNS CD also has been released with an embroidered logo patch.
OPEN GRAVE will have a three-track demo that was recorded in 2004 called The Forest Keeps its Secrets. This will be a co-release with Sunshine Ward Recordings which is owned by Jesse (God Vomit) from OPEN GRAVE, HUMANICIDE, and HELCARAXE. This demo has never been released, so better late than never.
Lastly, I have made contact with an old bandmate Erik, and we have started a new project called WICHT. The writing process has already begun, and it really feels like we didn’t have a twelve-year gap in there. We picked up right where we left off. The first track we wrote was twelve plus minutes.
There is lots of stuff in the works, but the timelines haven’t been set yet. If anyone is interested, they can follow Regimental Records Instagram @regimental_records for future news.
Thank you for taking the time to interview me. I am humbled to know that there is interest in learning more about Regimental and our future projects.