No Echo sat down with Jud Hambleton, the owner and operator of Heavy and Fast Records / Distro to talk about his new record label, distro, and pop-up.
Based out of Collegeville, Pennsylvania and started in April 2022, Heavy and Fast focuses on independent metal, hardcore, and punk and has three releases in their catalog to date.
Jud, first I want to thank you for your time. Heavy and Fast just celebrated one year as a record label. Do you mind telling us what made you want to start the label and what your biggest hurdle starting from scratch was?
Thanks so much, Wyatt. I wanted to find a way I could contribute to our extreme music community. I have been a record, tape, CD collector forever, and it finally dawned on me I could support DIY bands by running a label to help get their music out into the world and spinning on tables and decks.
As for the biggest hurdle, it’s funny. I had planned what I wanted to do for months and when I was finally ready to execute, I thought, “Oh #$%#,” I need a name. I literally mulled over it for 6 months. The name is obviously an important aspect, and I really wanted it to be something that I could get enthusiastic over. As soon as I came up with Heavy and Fast I was immediately excited, and with a name like Heavy and Fast Records/Distro there is no question what you’re gonna get.
Tell us about your first release and some of the challenges you met along the way. From terms of finding artists for your roster to having a branded product for extreme music fans?
I had ideas for my first few releases and after I garnered interest from the artists, and I dove in without knowing what I was doing. My first vinyl release is Ice Cream Headache by Die Theory. Die Theory was a band from Providence, Rhode Island from the late '80s and early '90s. They released two demos on cassette which I loved, and I wanted to reissue the second (Ice Cream Headache) demo.
As a record collector, I absolutely love reissues of older releases with bonus material, historical artifacts and such and I wanted to do this for one of my favorite demos. I try to use regional resources and artists as much as possible, and I was very fortunate to work with some great folks for the release.
The pressing was done at Softwax in Philadelphia, so I got to pick up the finished product directly from that plant. The design was done by Adam Petersen from Kennett Square, and the sick special edition overlay was done by Atomic Printing Company in Philadelphia.
One of the challenges with my first release was my patience, or lack thereof. Doing a vinyl release in these times when vinyl popularity is so high, with long queue times at pressing plants, was rough on my psyche (laughs). After all the pre-work required for the release and submitting materials to the plant, knowing that you have 8 months of waiting ahead of you was tough. Ultimately, it was worth it, and rewarding to see and hear the final product.
Heavy and Fast currently has three releases under its belt. A diverse range of metal one being a melodic metal band Corretja. The other being the aformentioned crossover thrash from Die Theory. Most recently a death-grind project called Unimaginable Terror. Can you talk about how you decide what artist you are willing to work with?
I don’t really have a formula or mold, or much experience for that matter picking artists to work with. The only thing I want is to do is keep an open mind and help release music that I love and to support bands and our community. Other than the music, a bands’ attitude and dedication are huge factors to me.
A great example is my first release, by Corretja (pronounced Core-ate-jah) which was a cassette reissue of their self-released 2020 album. Corretja is a trio that have been playing together for quite some time and just love making music. I could sense this in my chats with them and you can surely sense this in their album The Ancient Wisdom of Lost Generations.
Heavy and Fast brought something to vinyl for the first time with Die Theory. Are there any other releases you’d like to bring back to life?
I want to do another reissue again for sure. Being able to bring Die Theory’s Ice Cream Headache demo back and have folks hear it again is truly an incredible feeling. Engaging with the band and seeing the joy it brought them was magical too.
A couple of bands stick out in my mind that are just too good to be forgotten. First, would be DVC (Darth Vader’s Church) Descendant Upheaval, an obscure late '80s Florida death metal album that is out of this world.
Second, would be from a Philly band around the mid-'90s called WNOC. I’m not sure if it ever did a proper release but they had such an energetic, intense live show and the original recordings (aka the old cassette tape) are pretty close to what they brought live.
For the moment, I want to focus on new music but I hope to do another reissue.
What's the latest Heavy and Fast project to hit stores?
My latest release from Unimaginable Terror's Pure Evil EP and is just two dudes sharing their love for horror movies and death metal. These guys are all about the music and put so much time and effort into their craft and that motivates me to help to up my game to get their music out there.
You are very active on social platforms like Instagram. For example: you are the one responsible for the now retired #FebMetalPunk mix media challenge. Do you feel there is still a sense of community in the realm of underground music? Are there things that you miss before the prevalence of social media?
[Laughs] Thanks for the shout out for #febmetalpunk. There is absolutely a huge sense of community for our music and social media and sites like No Echo continue to enable and broaden the scale of the community. But it starts on the ground, being out there at shows, at record shops, wherever, spreading the love for our music. While the online portion is vital, it should only be a complement, not the be-all end-all.
I don’t really miss anything from the old days, except maybe my youth [laughs]. The same sense of community was still there, it was just different because of the times and available technology. The people are the same, from the bands to the artists, from the young 'uns who want to disrupt, to the cranky old heads who haven’t heard anything good in 15 years [laughs].
What does the future of Heavy and Fast look like? Are there any projects you have brewing up, or artists you want to work with?
I have a lot planned for 2023, I’m finalizing details on HARD004 for a summer release. Also, a very exciting announcement, Heavy and Fast will be the exclusive US distributor for the vinyl release of the latest album by Australia’s Pizza Death, which is being released by Australia’s Disdain Records.
I want to focus my next releases on Delaware Valley hardcore bands. I’m always scoping out new bands, and I have a few that I really want to work with that I will be reaching out to.
I will also continue doing several record shows and punk rock flea markets this year. The atmosphere at these events is always fun and engaging and you just get to talk music all day with people.
What was your first metal or hardcore show?
I’ll give you both! My first club metal show was Overkill with Testament and Hallows Eve Opening many eons ago. The place was called Pulsations in the Philly 'burbs and was an over 21 dance club that did all ages “Metal Mondays” shows for a few summers.
Later that same year, I saw Turning Point, Dare to Defy and some high school friends' bands at the Kennett Square, Pennsylvania YWCA. One of those openers was a band called TMK (Those Meddling Kids), which I still think is one of the best band names ever.
I recall Pat was in the band, and Pat and I sat next to each other inhomeroom for 4 years. We would share mix tapes with one another. I would share the likes of Dark Angel and Overkill, and Pat would share the likes of Token Entry and Underdog. I would debate metal and hardcore.
Best slice of pizza in PA?
Ahh, finding a holy grail like this is an ever-evolving lifelong journey [laughs]. Now, I would go with Collegeville Bakery which has an amazing slice and variety. For a sweeter sauce pie, it will always be from Franzone’s in Bridgeport which started in the 1950s.
By the way, both have exceptional Zeps. You probably don’t know what a Zep is, but it's a sandwich created in the 1940s in Norristown, Pennsylvania. It's like a hoagie but with rules [laughs]. I'll have to elaborate on that another time.
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