Some twenty years ago, in 1996 to be precise, Serafino Perugino founded Frontiers Records. It actually had to do with a Swede called Håkan Häggblom that needed someone to distribute his releases from West Coast Records in Italy. When Håkan got refused by every other distributor that Serafino suggested he decided to do it on his own. After two years he thought that the opportunity was right and that it was possible to continue as a record label.
In 1998 Frontiers released their first album and it was a double live CD with the classic British band Ten. From that day the company has expanded to be one of the largest actors in the genre of melodic rock/AOR and by now they have released a great many records from some of the greatest and most popular bands for several decades, for example: Journey, Whitesnake, Toto, House Of Lords, Pretty Maids, Yes, Stryper and Harem Scarem. Also new and well-known bands like Eclipse, Crazy Lixx, Vega, W.E.T and Work Of Art got contracts with Frontiers. One thing they are more or less alone in doing is to promote and bring handpicked projects together with members from several bands to release albums with songs from major songwriters like for example Revolution Saints, Find Me, Rated X, Magnus Karlsson’s Freefall and Moonland, of which most of them are crafted to perfection by their “In-House” producer and songwriter, Alessandro Del Vecchio.
From early 1998 when they released their first album Mario de Riso was hired by Serafino. Today he’s Head of Label Management / Legal Affairs and Rocknytt got the chance to have a chat with one of the founders that has been involved since the beginning and in this conversation we discussed today’s music industry, the ultimate project and the Frontiers Records Festival that will take place for the second year in a row.
Congratulations for being the leading melodic rock record label in the world, why do you think this Italian record label has become so important in the genre?
– Thank you for the kind words and much appreciated! I actually don’t think we are that important, but hell we work so hard that it’s more than flattering and super-appreciated to get this feedback from people and fans, really! I think the answer to your question is probably having so many “great” bands signed to the label. I mean the list includes Journey, Toto, Whitesnake, Foreigner, Glenn Hughes, Asia, Ted Nugent, Extreme, Uriah Heep, Chicago, Jeff Lynne, Mr Big and so many more… This is the music we always loved and the music that we love working with. I believe the fans still love the music these great bands can do nowadays!
You´ve been active for many years now, when you started could you imagine to ink deals with the bands that you have contracted today?
– Not really. we used to have some posters of the bands we currently work with and say “would be great to work with this or that band”. It seemed almost impossible when 16 years ago, after just a couple of years in the business, we could work with people like Jimi Jamison, John Elefante or David Glen Eisley. Now we have moved on and built the house brick after brick and it’s really solid and we plan to build on it further and further and there are no plans to stop. Pretty much the opposite actually!
Is there still a “dreamband/reunion” that you´re hoping to become reality in the future? wich one?
– Well sure, there are certainly dream bands. Foreigner was probably the last “dream come true” for the label. As to the future, I could say that AC/DC, Van Halen are among the top dreams we have. The 2 magic reunions for me would probably be Genesis in the classic line-up with Peter Gabriel and Rainbow in the “Rising” line-up (though i would not complain too much if i could have at least the “difficult to cure” one coming back!). And while we’re at it, I would certainly not complain to see again the Deep Purple mark III in action.
What was the purpose and goals to achive when you started this label compared to what you´re aiming for today?
– It is difficult to say. Serafino started Frontiers as a secondary job. I came into the picture at the end of ’97 when a working contract with the Napoli’s Euro-info center at the chamber of commerce came to an end. So I told to myself that I could do something to help Serafino and he seemed to like having me around his place. That all started from there. Probably at the beginning all that counted was to survive and make a living with our passion. That dream luckily became a reality. I am not sure these days, with the very bad state of the industry, it is possible to think or dream to have Frontiers become a major of sorts, but hey… who knows… I have seen so many things happen during these almost 20 years in the business, so who am I to say?
In the beginning I thought frontiers was more about quantity than quality releases, nowadays there´s almost only quality releases, what is the biggest difference now and then?
– There has never been any particular difference. We have always fought very hard to improve the quality on each and every release. Now probably the main differences have to do with the fact that we work mainly with more established acts and when we work with newer bands and projects we require to have some control on the A&R direction. I think this is what makes the most of the difference. All bands who accept to have our ears involved in the production, while they have probably to accept some compromise with their own creativity, in the end have more chances to have better results on the market instead. With over 18 years of experience reading reviews of journalists for our records and looking at the sales figures, we feel we have a decent idea of what can work and what has less chances to succeed out there.
Every month you release at least three albums in a range from metal to aor, is´nt it hard to keep up the quality with that amount of releases?
– Yes, it is extremely hard. You have to deal with a lot of complications and personalities, but regardless we manage to make it happen. That hopefully makes the fans happy with the fact that they can always expect new great music from our label every month (we have never missed a release month since 1998, btw!)
Tell me the biggest differences in releasing a metal or aor album? I´m thinking promotion, tours, sales etc.
– There is no huge difference to be honest. There are certain magazines that lean more towards metal and others for which AOR is more in the spotlight. We know this, so we try to have exposure for the acts depending on the magazine and the style. There used to be less interest in AOR acts on the touring side, but I think this has changed a bit in the recent years.
I remember that Frontiers has mentioned that you´re in the search of doing the ultimate melodic rock album, do you consider it done already or will it ever be done?
– Certainly we are not done yet and we have a lot of ideas in the can!
Is there why you got all these “projects” and new constellation bands on your label?
– Because we are creative! No other label out there is – at least as much as we do. Also because this allows us to have the best possible control on the A&R side. You mentioned coming out with quality products in a previous question. This can be achieved if you follow closely the creative elements in the recording process. In all cases we always look for new talents and new bands (see for instance State Of Salazar, Adrenaline Rush, Eclipse, Work Of Art and so many more bands we have launched from scratch). More great fresh talents will be always welcomed here at Frontiers.
For some time now it has seemed that Alessandro del Vecchio has been your “in-house” producer responsible for a lot of writning credits and production, will he be a big part of the future of frontiers and if in what way?
– Alessandro is a guy that showed us and the fans his ability work with everyone and deliver kick ass product. He is currently producing another half a dozen albums for the label, either with or without involving his songwriting abilities. The artists like to work with him, so if everyone’s happy there is no reason to change a team that is working well. That said, we of course work with several other extremely capable and gifted producers and writers, so I think we only try to get the best where we can and it is our precise intention to develop new and interesting new talent in all areas (bands, songwriting, production). We are only happy if someone – thanks to our efforts becomes more and more credible in nowaday’s music scene.
Will we experience some new exciting names in the Frontiers sphere in the near future? who?
– I think so and just wait and see. We are about to sign one of my personal ever favourite bands who has not been releasing any new records since approx 15 years. This is really a dream coming true for me, no names yet of course, so don’t dare to ask, haha!
Are there any more big plans for frontiers that you could give us hint of? Boatcruise?
– Cruises are a no for the time being. It’s already extremely difficult to deal with the festival we are doing where the costs are definitely more managable. The boatcruise is not something that I think the people – here in southern Europe at least – would be prepared for (particularly for the costs involved in that, due to the general economic crisis). However we plan to do more and more on the live side and I think the festival concept will become bigger and will certainly be expanded moving forward.
You must have felt very proud of making some of your ideas and dreams reality on record, what is the best albums and proudest moments so far?
– Uh, difficult question… off of the top of my head let me list a few…
1. When we closed the label deal with Now&Then Records in early 1998. This was extremely important as allowed us from the beginning to have a catalogue of releases to work with;
2. When we had the deal with Jimi Jamison “Empires. This was a monster release for us at the time and allowed us to make a big step forward in our profile;
3. When we signed Journey for the release of “Red 13”. While the release itself did not do susbtantial numbers, it started an enormously important relationship which helped the label’s growth;
4. When we released the first Toto album “Falling In Between” in 2006. This was another major step forward and we learnt a lot in the marketing campaigns for that record since we stretched for the first time into the “mainstream” all across europe;
5. When we released in a row in 2011 the albums “Forevermore” from Whitesnake, “Eclipse” from Journey, “Fly From Here” from Yes, “Into The Wild” from Uriah Heep and “Mirror Ball” from Def Leppard. I hardly had time to sleep, but the success we had was overwhelming.
6. Having 2 albums (Jeff Lynne and ELO) in the Brittish top 10 in the same week was great too…
Last year you started the Frontiers Festival with an amazing lineup of mostly Frontiers band, how did you came up with that idea?
– One morning in the fall of 2013 Serafino came to the office and told us “guys, this night I had a dream, we should do a label festival in Milan”. I pretty much told him “go back to sleep please, so you can have another dream and forget about this”. However Elio picked up from there and found the right guy (Primo Bonali) who helped us to build from scratch the concept and found the right venue, organized the transportation, backline, team and hotels. It was a hell of a job which we had no experience whatsoever, but – yes, to go with your previous question – this was another of the “proud” moments since it worked so well that the fans have asked us to make it again and again. I say we are glad to oblige! and I got convinced in the end.
It seems you were happy with the result of the first festival considering you are doing a year number two in april, what can we be expecting?
– You can expect 2 beautiful days of rock & roll…. 7 shows per day… beautiful venue & sound… (hopefully) no delays… great vibes… everyone smiling… tons of cds and other memorabilia sold very cheaply and a good amount of think-alike rockers!
For those who were there last year, are there any changes or improvements to look forward to this year?
– We have taken notes of the suggestions for the improvement of the organization. Probably the most interesting changes which the public will note, will be that there will be a curtain that will drop in between shows (so the stage can be prepared better) and there will be 2 official presenters (one of which is a super hot woman but I won’t tell too much). Plus we will have some nice and exclusive surprises at the merch area, Come and see!
Why should´nt anyone miss this years Frontiers Festival?
– I think we have worked very hard to offer a substantial and interesting lineup. Seeing so many good bands live (and bearing in mind that 7 acts are coming from north America) is not so easy these days. Also there are very little alternatives – at least in southern europe. So make up your mind and let’s have some fun together. When and how will you be able to enjoy in 2 days acts like Harem Scarem, Joe Lynn Turner, House Of Lords, Lynch Mob, Pride Of Lions, FM and so many others!
The music business has changed a dramatically over the last years, how has that affected your label?
– The change in the music business has affected Frontiers as much as the other labels. We have to live with that and the fact that we are a small boutique company which helps us sailing in these difficult times.
What are your thoughts about the business situation today?
– The business situation, since the first day I started this job, has always been a big “drama”. Everyone complained and told stories of people losing their job and money. We have always believed in what we have been doing and therefore we moved forward in the understanding that until people wants to hear new music and be entertained there will be a room for a business and for Frontiers. From day 1 our goal was to make a living and not necessarily becoming billionaires. If this happens, I would be happy for sure, but my life does not depend on that. I am happy because of my family, friends and thanks to the fact that I can work in a creative environment with the thing that I like the most, which is music. We’ll see what the future brings but again, I believe people will always be looking for new music and new ways to be entertained and regardless of the “new trends” in the industry we are here to stay.
In this tougher times for labels and artists, what are you doing to minimize the negative effects?
– Again the business is what it is. Frontiers is a small company so that helps. Also we have expanded our reaches and stretched into the US market, into the music publishing, direct to consumer sales and of course the festival. We have to find new and creative ways to compensate the losses coming from the fall of the physical market (which the digital at the moment is not in the position to compensate) and these new avenues certainly help.
What do you think is the biggest reason for Frontiers success when many other labels seems to be struggling for survival?
– You tell me! You said we do quality music? That’s enough to survive, I guess. Oh i forgot… Work hard! Work ethic is essential and I think is another reason why we managed to sail safely in the last 20 years or so.
Where and what are Frontiers Records in five years?
– I don’t know, but I hope – going back to what I wrote – that I can finally become a billionaire selling millions of records worldwide of some new and super hot rock band and finally retire – at 48 years old – living in a New Zealand villa between the ocean and the forest.
Thank you for taking time talking to me and I´m thankful that Frontiers exists and I wish you the best of luck in the future and look forward to some great new releases, cheers.
– Thanks to you for the questions and I wish to meet you all at the festival! Thanks for reading & sticking with Frontiers during the years!