Trustkill’s Josh Grabelle Forms New Bullet Tooth Venture
Trustkill’s Josh Grabelle has formed a new venture called Bullet Tooth. He has left the label he started in college behind. While it’s a fresh start, it’s also the end of an era, the truest manifestation of bittersweet. Trustkill was once the label home of Bleeding Through, Bullet for My Valentine and Poison the Well, and many other equally as genre defining bands.
In the early ’00s, Trustkill was a definitive metal and hardcore source. Now that Grabelle has started Bullet Tooth, he came to Noisecreep to exclusively answer all the questions that TK fans, haters, keyboard ninjas and others want to know in one fell swoop.
You are often referred to as ‘Josh Trustkill’ — will ‘Josh Bullet’ Tooth roll off the tongue?
Ha Ha, well I hope so. Only people that don’t know me call me ‘Josh Trustkill,’ so I’ve never actually heard anyone say that to me. One nickname I kinda liked was ‘JTK,’ so maybe people will call me ‘JBT’ now. That has a nice ring to it! Plus, people would always ask me where the name Trustkill came from and I never really had a solid answer, because the truth is, I just made it up one day while listening to the 7 Seconds song ‘Trust.’ The name Bullet Tooth comes from the character Bullet Tooth Tony from my favorite movie of all time, ‘Snatch.’
In all seriousness, how do you feel about splitting with the label you created? What hastened this decision?
I have no regrets about anything I ever did with Trustkill. It lasted for 14 years, which is a whole lot longer than I ever thought it would, and longer than most indie labels have been around. Unfortunately we got caught up in some ‘bigger deals’ with bigger players, which ultimately led us to a point where we needed to break free from our current distributor. They wouldn’t allow us to do so, so we had to move on without the brand and the catalog.
How will Bullet Tooth differ from Trustkill?
Bullet Tooth will move forward as a new venture, with new bands and a new outlook. It’s exciting and refreshing, and we have lined up a network of partners around the globe who are truly excited to be working with us on our new bands, albums, merch, licensing, tours and more.
Is Bullet Tooth a label?
It is more of a brand than a ‘label.’ The term ‘label’ seems dated to me. We do far more for our bands (always have) than just sign them and release their albums. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes over here to develop our bands. Every band I ever signed to Trustkill was a very small band seeking to be able to make music for a living. Until they got to that point, however, we did all the work in order for them to reach their goals and create a team of people they trust to get them there. Nine out of 10 bands we worked with did not have a manager or an agent when we signed them, and until they made those connections, we were there to do all the work.
What bands will come with you, if any, to this new venture/brand?
The bands we are working with for Bullet Tooth are Memphis May Fire, First Blood, Victory in Numbers, Deception of a Ghost, Kid Liberty, Soldiers, the Great American Beast, Most Precious Blood and Awaken Demons. We also have some great projects coming up like the ‘Saw VII’ soundtrack, ‘HorrorFest’ soundtrack and many other tricks up our sleeves.
What bands are you signing?
Bullet Tooth will continue where Trustkill left off: signing the best heavy music out there. We have no agenda; we never have. We just find what we feel is the most compelling music written by kids with the strongest work ethics. Out of 100 emails/demos/packages we get each day of the week, there are one or two that capture our attention, and we keep our eye on them until they knock our socks off.
What will you do differently, in this changing climate, where no one buys records?
I believe we have always been at the forefront of creative marketing for our bands and our music. Marketing to the right kids at the right time takes knowledge of the music and a love for what the band is trying to achieve. We work closely with all our bands to make sure everyone knows about their album, video or tour, using street marketing, advertising, publicity, radio and more.
We have surrounded ourselves with a network of partners across the globe who believe in what we do, what our bands are doing and can assist us in our goals to develop our bands to be self-sufficient touring machines who can make a living off doing what they love.
There were lots of rumors that Trustkill would fold. What do you have to say about that?
On the one hand, I would say that we have had successful releases in the last 2 years from Bleeding Through, It Dies Today, Memphis May Fire, the ‘Saw VI’ soundtrack and more. Until just recently, we have consistently released albums every month or two as any other indie label would. Did we have a few underperformers? Of course. That is the nature of the business. No label out there, indie or major, has hit after hit after hit. Every label also goes through phases, especially when you have been around for over 10 years. Our friends at Epitaph, Metal Blade, Fearless, Equal Vision and more have had their ups and downs, and you can’t let that get to you.
There was a lot of message board chatter that bands were not happy with the label in recent years.
In regards to ‘bands not being happy,’ I’d have to chalk that up to two things. The first being that sometimes bands don’t know how the business works. Hopesfall made a big stink a few years ago that we ‘pulled a track off their album.’ Well, the truth is, we do that for almost all our albums. When a band delivers their record to us, we discuss with them what songs to put on, in which order and perhaps what songs to hold back for international releases, bonus songs, soundtracks, etc. We told Hopesfall many times about that, but apparently there was a miscommunication between their management and the band. It should not have been a surprise, since we did the same thing on their previous album, ‘A Types.’
Secondly, there are some bands out there that give themselves all the credit as they work their way up the ladder of the business. We all know that it takes a team of people to get them there: band, label, manager, agent, publicist. Unfortunately when a band has already hit their peak and they are coming down the ladder, they can’t look themselves in the mirror, and instead, start pointing fingers.
Other than Bullet for My Valentine, every band we ever released an album for that moved on to another label has sold less records than we did. Is that partly because of the decline in music sales? Of course. But you could also say that we released the right album at the right time, with the right marketing.