Zao Guitarist Explains Why Ferret’s Music Albums Haven’t Been Reissued

Zao guitarist Scott Mellinger recently joined The MetalSucks Podcast to discuss the band’s new album, The Crimson Corridorthrowback to their 2006 classic, Fear is what keeps us herewhat it was like working with legendary producer Steve Albini, and more.

At one point, the discussion turned to the difficulties Zao had in getting reissues of their old albums, especially with material released by Ferret Music (God’s burial [2004], Fear is what keeps us here [2006]and Awake? [2009]). Mellinger also shared some thoughts on the metalcore scene at that time, and how the race to match Killswitch Engage’s success for up-and-coming bands drove labels deep into debt.

Mellinger explained:

“So unfortunately every record we put out belongs to someone and a lot of them belong to people we can’t even deal with. So luckily when Solid State put out Zao records, Solid State was bought out by Capitol. Capitol then, I think, gave some ownership to Universal Music Group. But, Solid State and Tooth and Nail were able to get a manufacturing deal where we were able to go back and we’re so glad it worked out that way. But Unoriginal Vinyl and Tooth and Nail are kind of working with us. The three of us work together and they’ve reissued some of those old Zao records, vinyl reissues.

“Now Ferret’s stuff, the saddest thing is even Carl [Severson], the guy, our close friend who owned Ferret, even he is in the dark on a lot of things. Ferret was kind of run as a subsidiary of Sony for a little while, and then Warner bought the rights to Ferret’s stuff. Warner doesn’t care. [laughs] I don’t know what it is and I don’t understand it either because it’s not like Zao is something you’re going to make a lot of money on. For me, I’d rather see something come out and everybody make money than just sit on records and make them so incredibly expensive that anyone can reasonably put them out.

“But luckily we made a deal with Tragic Hero Records to have them do a reissue of ‘The Funeral of God’ vinyl. And it ended up being a nightmare, but we made it. Maybe we’re talking of fear’ [‘The Fear Is What Keeps Us Here,’ 2008] coming out, which is the whole reason we made this record, was for vinyl. We really hope it comes out.

“But all these different labels, I think a lot of these more underground labels like Ferret or Trustkill, these guys came into the whole label scene with good intentions and really wanted to help their friends’ bands and do whatever great job. And then, weirdly, a lot of that time when we were on Ferret and Trustkill, like all those bands – Killswitch is a good example of that – [with] it’s all to really explode, I think everyone’s got a bit over their heads with how it works. So when you have a band that has the potential to sell as many records as a Killswitch or whatever, and before they go to your major [label], as your underground wants to spend more money to put them in front of more people and blow up these bands, you go into debt. To me it’s no one’s fault and there shouldn’t be any hard feelings but everything happens and the big ones end up swallowing the little ones up because they end up owing so much money for everything they have tried to help groups.

“And that’s it too, I think, even with Zao. We complained ‘no one makes money, blah blah blah’ but the labels put their… with Ferret, I saw how much money Carl was spending to introduce people to Zao. I saw how much Carl spent on the In Flames record he put out [‘Come Clarity,’ 2006]. The guy really, really tried to break up bands and really work. As a group, I am not responsible. We didn’t sell as many records as Ferret hoped, but it’s not like they’re going to come back to me like, “You owe me $15,000 now.” Yes, we will never make money but they have to swallow this loss. I don’t know, it’s just a nightmare. It’s a nightmare for everyone involved and it sucks and I really, really wish it were a lot easier. I wish you as an artist had a lot more say in what happens to your product…but…it just doesn’t.

You can listen to the full chat with Mellinger here or below.

The Crimson Corridor was released last Friday, April 9; order it here and block “Ship of Theseus” below.

George L. Hernandez