Few truly independent labels have caught the attention of the heavy music underground in recent memory like Maggot Stomp has. The Pasadena, California-based death metal label is the brainchild of Scott Magrath, an East Coast native who has put his heart and soul (and time) into building quite the impressive discography since launching in 2018.
Throughout that time, Maggot Stomp has issued releases by such bands as 200 Stab Wounds, Kommand, Bodybox, Sanguisugabogg, to name just a few.
I've had the pleasure of hanging with Scott at SoCal-hardcore/metal-related events and I recently asked him if he would be down to chat about Maggot Stomp's history so far.
Tell me a bit about growing up in Connecticut. Were you a good student? What kind of stuff did you gravitate towards when you were really young?
Connecticut was alright. I spent my teen years in Bolton, a small town bordering on Manchester which was another small but slightly less boring town. I was an extremely average student, I did ok, but school wasn’t really my thing. I fucked with art class though. That was the one class that interested me. I also played baseball from Little League through high school. I love sports but I never considered myself a jock or anything, I wasn’t one of the cool kids.
For the most part I stuck to myself and would chill in my room after school and listen to records and draw in my sketch books.
How did you get into the heavier side of the musical spectrum? I’m always interested to hear if that came organically, or if the person had a mentor, so to speak, who helped expose them to metal/hardcore/punk.
I think I started getting into music when I was around 10 or 11. I had a small radio with a tape deck and I would lay in bed at night listening to WCCC radio and record songs that came on, my tape was basically full of Ozzy’s "Crazy Train" and Def Leppard. MTV had just started so I’d sit and watch as much of that as I could whenever we visited my grandmother or my dad. I lived with my mom and stepfather and we didn’t have cable. Then, Headbanger’s Ball happened and everything went to shit. I was listening to hair metal, Maiden, Priest etc., and now I’m watching "Peace Sells" videos, Testament, Sepultura.
Around this time I had borrowed a metal magazine from a friend at school and read some record reviews for a Token Entry record and another for a band called Pagan Babies. I convinced my mom to stop at the Crystal Mall on the way to my aunt’s house that following weekend so I could go to Cassette World. They had both, the Token Entry and the Pagan Babies tapes.
I only had enough money to buy one so I grabbed the Token Entry cassette and hopped in the back of the station wagon and threw that in my walkman. I was surprised at how short the cassette was, I must’ve listened to it five or six times on the drive to my aunts and the drive back home.
I overheard some skater kid, Luke, who was older than me, talking about Token Entry during lunch or something at school and I chimed in about how I had the 'Jaybird' tape. He was shocked and the next day he brought me a couple dubbed cassettes that had everything from the Sick of It All, Gorilla Biscuits, and Raw Deal demos to Minor Threat to 7 Seconds.
This was 1988, the beginning of my junior year of HS. He also took me to my first show which was in December at the Student Union Ballroom at UConn. The lineup was Gorilla Biscuits, Sick of It All, Raw Deal, Sponge Tunnel, Screeching Weasel, Laughing Hyenas and 24-7 Spyz. I remember the weather being shitty and it being incredibly cold. 24-7 Spyz and GB were no shows.
I listened to those dubbed tapes so much and started buying Maximum Rocknroll and scouring the pages for ads to buy 7-inch records. By my senior year of high school (89/90) I was fully immersed in NYHC and Slayer/ Sepultura etc. Looking back I wish I had gotten into tape trading but I honestly didn’t know that was a thing until I got a copy of Sounds of Death magazine sometime in the early '90s.
What band/album was your entry point into the death metal world? Who were some of your favorite death metal bands during the earlier part of that discovery?
I think the first actual death metal record I heard was Deicide’s debut album. I remember just staring at the cover and band photo and thinking that these dudes were different. Some other records I got into early on was the first Grave record, Entombed, Obituary, Cannibal Corpse...the stuff was on the bigger labels.
What inspired your move to Southern California and how long did it take for it to feel like home to you?
After I graduated high school, I spent most of the '90s just fucking around and going to shows (now that I see that written out, what the fuck was I thinking?). I was working at a cool bookstore for several years and then I started working at a print shop making copies and typesetting business cards and flyers for local businesses. I figured I would get into graphic design or something. I had done some sampler layouts for Equal Vision and shit but nothing crazy.
The print shop seemed like a go-nowhere situation, one of my friends was living out here in LA and had an extra room open up in his place and he convinced me to move out to California. So I said fuck it, he flew back out to Connecticut and I packed up my car and we did the drive out to LA in two and a half days. I had never been here previously and was instantly overwhelmed by everything.
I went from paying $350/month rent for an entire floor of a house to now having to come up with $700 a month for a tiny ass bedroom. This was September of 2000. When I got out here I was broke. My buddy helped me find a job at the spot he worked at. I was basically an assistant to a senior art director at a company that did theatrical advertising. I had barely touched Photoshop or Illustrator at this point but I just sat working late every night trying to teach myself so I didn’t feel lost every day.
I went to a show at Headline Records on Melrose one night, I think it was in October and the lineup was Carry On and I think Fields of Fire. I knew who Carry On were because of Youngblood Records.
I was standing in the back of the store when this dude came up to me and said, “You’re not from around here, are you?” That dude was Todd Jones (Carry On, Terror, Nails) and he said he could tell I wasn’t because I was wearing a Floorpunch shirt and only him and a few of his friends like FP. I started hanging out with him and the Carry On crew going to shows and stuff. So things started feeling like I belonged pretty quick.
Before we move onto Maggot Stomp, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you about Takeover Records, the label you ran in the early ‘00s that released material from the likes of Terror and Over My Dead Body. How was that experience and what did you learn from it that you used later on with Maggot Stomp?
Man, I was living in Van Nuys back then living paycheck to paycheck. It was a pretty stupid thing to start doing. Carry On had just broken up and Corey and Nick from the band were starting Piece By Piece and my buddy Jeff and I decided to start the label to put out the PBP record, I was living with Todd when Terror formed and they were about to go out on tour and wanted to sell a record so he asked if I would do a 7” for them. It was already a foregone conclusion that they were going to be on Bridge 9 but I thought it was still a cool thing to get a chance to do.
I wasn’t very good about figuring out how to do things back then. Bandcamp wasn’t a thing. PayPal was barely a thing. I had no idea how to “add a button” to a website to sell records online. I was still getting cash & checks in envelopes and writing out mailing labels and doing things that way.
I started getting cease and desist letters over the name Takeover Records from some law firm that represented Yellowcard. Apparently the dickbag bass player started something called Take Over Entertainment. At the time they were just a name and technically started after I did, but I was just some dude in a two bedroom apartment in Van Nuys so I decided to change the name of the label to Old Guard.
There were plenty of douchebags back then and perhaps even more douchebags now.
From what I’ve read, the spark that ignited Maggot Stomp was the popularity of death metal-related pins you began selling. Were you weary of entering the label game again?
Maggot Stomp was definitely born out of that. I started making a few pins of things I thought were cool and weren’t really being done. I thought the cover of the Morbid Angel demo and the Helga head from the Repulsion demo would make a cool pins, my buddy Larry convinced me to make a big cartel to sell all the extras since I had to order a hundred of them. That did pretty well and I made a few more and then a few bands started asking me to make pins for them. It was cool but I had zero desire to be a pin guy.
Larry and I would be hanging out and he would often say he wanted to do a death metal label (he had a small cassette label at the time, RIP Neck Noise). I kept telling him to do one but he’d say he didn’t know how. One day I said fuck that, here’s how you do it, and just went ahead and found I liked and messaged the band about releasing it on tape. That band was Grave Ascension and they said yes. That was the first evolution of Maggot Stomp.
I never intended for things to have gone the way that they have, but it’s definitely cool.
Thinking back to the early Maggot Stomp catalog, is there a key release(s) where you felt that things truly began to “pop,” so to speak? How much more work did the success mean in terms of your personal work load?
I think there were two releases that definitely signaled that people were fucking with what I was trying to do, the Frozen Soul EP and the Sanguisugabogg EP. Both bands were out there playing shows and working hard. I released the Pornographic Seizures 12-inch EP on Christmas morning of 2019. I think I only pressed 300 of them but they sold out within 6 minutes. It was crazy.
As things got bigger the amount of mail order I was doing was getting to be too much for me to handle with having a full-time job and a family life.
Since you’re a graphic designer by profession, I imagine that has been a massive tool to the label’s success because you can handle that aspect yourself in many situations. But on the other side of it, have you ever clashed with a band because you didn’t feel that their artwork/design choices were up to par?
Maybe on a couple of occasions. When I got everything to do the Frozen Soul release the cover was an image of a frozen soldier or something. I didn’t think it was all that cool (unintended) and I had just seen the same image used on another demo, so I was able to convince them to use another image they had gotten as a t-shirt design.
For the most part though things have gone pretty smoothly when it comes to art.
Of all the Maggot Stomp releases you’ve done so far, what are some titles that you feel flew under the radar and deserve more attention? How much pressure do you put on yourself when that happens?
I think the two Unurnment records deserve more attention. I think they go unnoticed because it’s a solo project, not a band who’s out there playing shows and shit, and that’s to be expected.
I can’t think of another label right now that has so much crossover between the death metal and hardcore worlds, which makes total sense when you think about the person behind it. Why do you think so many hardcore heads love Maggot Stomp and your roster?
I think the main reason is is that the bands are good. And most of the bands are made up of young people. Some of the bands definitely have a hardcore element to them whether it’s with breakdowns or songs that run two or three minutes, max. Other bands don’t have that element at all but are just solid death metal bands that can be enjoyed by the average kid who likes heavy ass hardcore.
Death metal can come across as something that only old dudes are into, but I’m hoping to shed some light on younger bands. And when I was a kid I was more likely to check out bands that were my peers than bands that had been playing for a decade or two.
I’ve tried to keep the label fun and easily accessible and inclusive to people who are curious and need a gateway into more extreme stuff. Some kid who’s mainly into hardcore might show up to check out Tribal Gaze and then check out Mortal Wound and somehow end up at Autopsy and Morbid Angel and become a death metal fan. I think that’s fucking sick.
You’ve released stuff from Terror on Maggot Stomp, but can you see yourself working with more hardcore bands in the future?
I’ve loved Terror since day one, and when [Terror guitarist] Martin [Stewart] hit me up about helping with the "Can’t Help But Hate" single, I couldn’t say yes fast enough. I gave it a catalog number (MAG94) but I didn’t technically release anything.
Pure Noise and Martin handled the majority of things and I gave Martin the go ahead to use my logo. When I saw it show up on merch and stuff I was stoked.
As far as working with more hardcore bands, I won’t say never but I don’t see anything right now that would make me stray from death metal-only shit. There’s plenty of people out there that would say I only release hardcore disguised as death metal, those people just don’t like anything.
Fuck, if you want to call Mongrel a hardcore band, go ahead. If you want to call them a death metal band that’s fine too. If you want to call them a heavy as fuck band that can kill at either a hardcore or a death metal show then you’d be right on the money.
What are some of the next releases we can expect from the label?
The Tribal Gaze record just came out and if you haven’t checked it out yet I’d say you’re fucking up. I’m waiting for Sentenced 2 Die and Mutilation Barbecue to get in the studio and record full lengths. There’s talk of another Inoculation record coming out next year.
Coffin Rot have just finished up writing for their next LP. Those dudes in Stabbed are allegedly going to record an LP. Bodybox will be finishing up their debut full length by the end of the year.
What is your all-time favorite hardcore record?
Easy answer, Sick of It All’s Blood, Sweat, and No Tears is the perfect hardcore record.
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