Former Peaceville Designer Dave Pybus Reflects On Label’s Glory Days; Looks Ahead

Wednesday, 16th March 2016

Primarily known for holding down the bass position for extended periods of time in Anathema and Cradle of Filth (talk about your polar opposites), Dave Pybus also had the good fortune of playing an integral role during Peaceville Records’ early days. After catching wind of Pybus’s teenage fanzine, Peaceville owner Paul “Hammy” Halmshaw extend the invite to Pybus to join the label as a designer, which he promptly accepted at the age of 19. Pybus would go on to handle the album designs for classic releases such as Anthema’s Serenades, At the Gates’ With Fear I Kiss the Burning Darkness, and Darkthrone’s A Blaze in the Northern Sky (among others) all done in an age where layout and presentation were absolutely essential components.

Today, Pybus is without a band to call his own, but that doesn’t mean he’s not busy. His well-received “Life is a Hideous Thing” monthly podcast has become a hit in the metal community, with topics ranging from metal (of course), movies, and to toys. So given the man’s musical and recording industry history, the timing was apropos to snag Pybus for a round of questions…

Dead Rhetoric: You’re primarily known for your work with Anathema and Cradle of Filth, but you also worked for Peaceville for quite some time. How did you end up working there?

Pybus: My first band (Darkened 1988-91) were pretty active at the time and I’d started my own fanzine to kinda promote the band. Hammy got a copy and invited me to work at the label. I had a weeks’ trial to see if I liked it. I was there for four years ha-ha. I was 19 when I started. Right place, right time I guess.

Dead Rhetoric: Hammy has been one of the main constants throughout Peaceville’s existence. What was it like working with him?

Pybus: Great. We had a good working relationship where he had all the crazy ideas, I made them in to reality. Some worked, some didn’t which made it a lot fun. There were a few stresses too. Up and downs, as you can imagine. I learnt a lot from Hammy. We traveled together a fair bit too which opened my eyes to many thing. And obviously the bands he signed opened my ears.

Dead Rhetoric: The early ’90s were clearly an exciting time for the label. What do you remember most about being a part of it all?

Pybus: There’s a lot of memories. Luckily, I kept a diary. Me and Hammy re-connected recently and chatted for hours about the old times. Some of which we recorded. There was a lot we’d both forgotten about. Having Earache records as our rivals made it a great time too. They were really fantastic.

Dead Rhetoric: Back in “those days” album art and design was absolutely essential. Do you worry that as the year’s progress, it won’t be as important?

Pybus: I guess being a bit older, we went through the golden age of formats. We got to use everything from vinyl, CD, cassette, mini-disc etc., and now what… MP3’s? It just isn’t the same. I know there’s a kind of vinyl resurgence of sorts and most bands do actually want their music pressed on vinyl. The quality of the pressings now is very high, which I’m happy to see. It’s not dead! But yeah, I always think the cover is still important.

Dead Rhetoric: From your standpoint, why do you think the label has been able to remain so successful after all of these years?

Pybus: They have a very solid back catalogue. Some of the bands signed in the early 90’s took a while to break through. Look at them now… Pentagram, Anathema, At the Gates, Vital Remains even. The return of Autopsy and Darkthrone to the label has done well for them, too. Just solid acts, signed for the right reasons.

Dead Rhetoric: The music industry as we know it is slowly evaporating. Is there any hope for the future? Are you glad you started in bands in the ’90s as opposed to now?

Pybus: My opinion is the record industry as a whole was very slow on realising what the future was with music. It took them 5-10 years to finally see the internet wasn’t just about having a website. They had no new ideas of how to use it. This was very damaging to the musicians in the end. The royalties from downloading MP3’s is a disgrace. Music devalued to the point of people expecting it for free. I’m sure I’d still start a band though.

Dead Rhetoric: Speaking of which, you were with Cradle during their brief run with a major label, Sony. Was that a classic case of a label not knowing how to handle a band?

Pybus: The A&R guy who signed us left, so it was the typical situation after that of us not knowing who to get things done with. In the end they wanted a certain plan and we didn’t. So we left after about a year after [2003’s] Damnation in a Day was released.

Dead Rhetoric: Switching gears, you’re quite active with your podcast. When you did realize that, “Ah, I’m starting to get a following here”?

Pybus: When I decided to take a break from being in a band, September 2012, I really wanted some time to come down to earth again. About two years later I wanted to do something artistic again, but not go on the road. So I thought I’d try doing a podcast. It has a small but loyal following which I’m very happy about. It’s there if people want to listen. I don’t get offended if they don’t. My days of trying to impress people are over.

Dead Rhetoric: Finally, what do you have in store for the podcast and other pursuits going in 2016?

Pybus: The first year of the podcast has been great, mostly. Gone way beyond my expectations. About 75% of it went to plan. The rest went in a direction I hadn’t even thought it would, so that made it even more fun. Talked to some fantastic people. Next year I want to do a more relaxed version. Maybe not so many high profile guests. I dunno. I’m kinda making it up as it goes along 🙂 I’m still trying to get some big names. One day maybe they will respond.

Related links:
Life is a Hideous Thing