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Relapse Records: Through Silver And Blood

Relapse Records have been one of the most game-changing labels in extreme music history. We chart their legacy

There have always been challenges and risks involved in running a record label. Like everything else, those challenges and risks have shifted at the hand of the internet, and, as the founder and president of Relapse Records, one of extreme music’s most pioneering and respected labels, Matthew F. Jacobson has endured them all. From the exorbitant long-distance rates and leaky distribution networks of the 90s to the present, when most people don’t have to – or feel they don’t have to – open up their billfolds to experience music, and everything in between, Matthew has survived while a banner list of his label’s discoveries and releases provided the motivating soundtrack.

Relapse has existed and thrived for 25 years on both sides of the line drawn in the sand by technology. These days, Matthew is likely to be discussing “shifting revenue streams” and “new industry economics”, but in 1990 when he started Relapse in his parents’ basement in Aurora, Colorado, communication was probably the biggest stumbling block in trying to build a high-volume business worldwide.

Back before the luxury of instant communication, there were limited methods of contact and only so much time one could dedicate to writing letters, sending faxes and manning phones. After the popularity of the label’s early seven-inch releases, Matthew felt that pinch himself when he enlisted penpal and fellow tape-trader Bill Yurkiewicz to help run the growing operation. Problem was, Bill lived in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 2600km away.

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