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An EMP Attack: An Exclusive Interview EMP Label Group/Combat Records Partner THOM HAZAERT

By Krishta Abruzzini, Pacific Northwest Writer
Friday, April 10, 2020 @ 12:41 AM

"I love you Corey Taylor, but you owe me a fucking plaque."

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Thom Hazaert is a musician, journalist, author, music executive, film producer and radio personality. He is the co-founder and president of Corporal Punishment Records and a partner in EMP along with MEGADETHís bassist, David Ellefson. He is also the singer for Ellefsonís solo band that recently released Sleeping Giants, which featured contributions from Bumblefoot, DMC, John Bush, and Mark Tremonti. He has played with Ellefson on several U.S. and European tours and on MEGADETHís Megacruise. Along with David Ellefson, Thom relaunched metal label Combat Records as part of the EMP Label Group.

I did this interview with Thom just prior to the world shutting down. As I transcribe his interview, Iím finding it surreal to hear him talk about future tours and plans with no window into what our world would look like just a few weeks later. We reminisced about our meeting at the NAMM show earlier this year, an event that brings in well over a hundred thousand people. Although only a couple of months ago, it seems like an eternity and a memory that we may have to hold dearly, as there is no guarantee for any of us what our new normal will be.

As part of the new norm, weíve seen several artists performing live streams, which has helped keep our musical/comedy community connected. The Dave Ellefson Youth Music Foundation will be hosting a live stream fundraising benefit, ĎOh Say Can You Streamí starting on Saturday April 11th, from 3pm to Midnight hosted by Thom Hazaert and David Ellefson. Special Co-Hosts: Don Jamieson, Jim Florentine, Craig Gass and Riki Rachtman. The lineup for this event is huge, which includes an all star lineup: Alice and Sheryl Cooper, members of MEGADETH, MASTADON, TESLA, and a list of many other artists will be playing throughout the day. For information and lineup, please visit: http://ellefsonyouthmusicfoundation.org/

HAZAERT: Iím going to talk a lot, so you have to spend a lot of time transcribing.

KNAC.COM: (Thinking, thanks Thom) *Laughing*

HAZAERT: I hate transcribing. David and I wrote our book. Iím writing the Chris Poland (former MEGADETH guitarist) book. The Poland book is all transcription. Itís so much fun when it comes together, and you see how it works. Last year I probably transcribed 500-hours of phone conversations. Which reminds me, I really need to get back into finishing Polandís book. Iím sure you know Davidís book, More Life With Deth came out in July. Now Iím writing a memoir with Chris Poland called Liar: Truths, Highs and Consequences coming out, whenever itís done. Sometime this year, I hope.

KNAC.COM: What is your process for writing someoneís memoir?

HAZAERT: The book with David, he wrote his parts, and I wrote mine. With Chris, I interviewed him for like 20-hours, and transcribed the parts we needed. I interviewed everybody else. With David, heíd be like, ďHere, I wrote 4-chapters today.Ē Done. We really knocked that book out. [More Life With Deth] is kind of like The Dirt (MOTLEY CRUE), itís like a mixed perspective. The first 90-pages are all about David, and then Iím in it. I write about the labels. Dan Donegan from DISTURBED is in it, and Alice Cooper, Head from KORN, Ron Keel and Mark Slaughter, and a bunch of really cool cats are in there.

KNAC.COM: So you started off as a music journalist, writing for Circus and Metal Hammer, did you go to school for journalism? I mean, obviously journalism is something youíre still interested in.

HAZAERT: Itís not like I ever stopped being a journalist, I just kind of run different ways. Iíve been a publicist, and a marketing guy. Iíve always written bios. Iíve contributed over the years to Noisecreep and Loudwire. Iíve written the press releases for the labels, for my bands, for other bands. I never stopped writing. For a couple of years, I ran a big website with my partner called Loudside, which was basically Blabbermouth, before Blabbermouth. It was all the news, and we had the scoops. We were kind of the kings of New Metal.

KNAC.COM: Did you go to school for this?

HAZAERT: Nah. I dropped out of High School. I didnít go to school for anything. (Laughs) Honestly, how it all started was there was a teen page in the local organic group daily paper. It was like a 200k circulation, and that was a huge deal then. All these 15-16 year olds were writing all this dumb shit about local stuff, and their schools, and I was doing music reviews. I realized that, hey, I write for a huge newspaper, so I figured out who the publicist was, and I figured out if I called them, they would set me up with interviews of huge bands and give me free tickets to shows and give me free shit. It just snowballed. Thatís when I met my dear friend Bob Chiappardi, and heís been one of my mentors from the beginning. He actually gave me my first real job. Concrete Marketing had their Foundations magazine. That was my first real job in the business. Then I started writing for Circus. That was right when KORN came out. I did the first KORN feature ever in a major rock magazine.

KNAC.COM: Do you remember faxing in your requests to the Publicists? (Laughing)

HAZAERT: Oh yeah. I can remember faxing. I had an e-fax. You could just scan the document and it would just fax it over your computer. That was awesome. Thatís how I got through the faxing era, was with e-fax.

KNAC.COM: I was doing this prior to the computer era. I recently found a box of my old, hand typed, or sometimes written requests that were faxed over. Another box with media kits that had tear sheets and band photos. No easy way to even research a band.

HAZAERT: Attention: Maria Gonzales. (Laughing) Attention: Amanda Cagan. I still remember all the people that gave me my breaks in this business and I owe them all dearly.

KNAC.COM: You became friends with quite a few guys in bands like KORN, DEFTONES.

HAZAERT: Oh yeah. Basically, through the KORN guys I met LIMP BIZKIT. My whole real story starts when I met LIMP BIZKIT, before they got signed. I was kind of doing Street Team stuff. It was the infancy of the internet. I took the street teams, that had really existed in Hip Hop, and I put an internet component into it. I went into KORNís chatrooms and message boards. All these bands were coming out, that were becoming this whole genre of itís own that were like KORN, SYSTEM OF A DOWN, SNOT, DEFTONES, LIMP BIZKIT. I realized that hey, I can market all these bands to KORN fans and they will like them. It was one band that turned into a genre, and I just kind of got ahead of that. I built a street team of like 500k kids. One day, I had a conference call with Fred Durst and Jordan Schur, the president of Flip Records, who later became the president of Geffen. Fred gets us on this three way call, and Fred introduces me to Jordan and tells him that weíre going to start a street team, and that I was going to run it. And Jordanís like, no weíre not. And Fred said, ĎYes we areí. Fred got his way, and we started that street team, and thatís really what blew up LIMP BIZKIT and then STAIND. It was so funny, there was this article in like Billboard, or Variety or something when they handed over the reigns of Geffen to Jordan, and he was like, ĎWell, my street team for Flip was what broke all of my bands and the reason that I have Geffen nowí. I was like, well, thanks dick, you mean the street team you didnít want to do and wanted nothing to do with? The one that Fred Durst made you do, and I did all the work?

KNAC.COM: And whereís your royalties from all this? (Laughing)

HAZAERT: I didnít even get paid. Whatever. I got to build a career off of it. I have LIMP BIZKIT platinum records hanging in my office. You know, Corey Taylor (SLIPKNOT) stayed over at my house one night. Iíve never really told this story in an interview, but I had a plaque for Significant Other (LIMP BIZKIT), it was like a 3-disc platinum. It was a hideous plaque anyway, cheap as shit. Anyway, Corey came to my house one night, and this is when I lived with, I donít know if you remember the band, DEPSWA, but I got them signed to Geffen. We all lived in a house in Sun Valley. Corey came over, we had a sleep-over, which we did from time to time. He came into my room, and saw the LIMP BIZKIT plaque, and he said, ĎTonight, Iím going to break thatí. Iím like, ĎCorey, no youíre notí. That was like when BIZKIT and SLIPKNOT had their big stupid feud. So he was like, ĎLet me give you one of my SLIPKNOT plaques, and let me break that oneí. So I let Corey take it outside, and we destroyed it with baseball bats and sledgehammers. It was actually really funny. We duct taped it back together and Corey signed it. The post-story to all of that is that Corey never did give me one of his fucking plaques and destroyed my LIMP BIZKIT plaque. So thanks Corey.

KNAC.COM: Thanks Corey. (Laughs)

HAZAERT: I love you Corey Taylor, but you owe me a fucking plaque.

KNAC.COM: From all of that, you went on to do an internship at Immortal Records.

HAZAERT: Ah, Jesus Christ, are you writing a biography on me? (Laughing) Yeah. I moved out from Green Bay to L.A. on a Greyhound bus. Just like the POISON video. I was like 20 or 21. I wanted to get bands signed. The first few bands I wanted to get signed I wanted to have Immortal or Roadrunner.They were my two favorite labels. Monty Conner at Roadrunner was really great. I remember early on I sent him my demo of one of my shitty bands, and this was when I was just some 19-year-old nobody fucking kid in Wisconsin, and he took the time to call me and talk to me.

KNAC.COM: Well, you have a hefty resume in all aspects of entertainment. Singer, writer, producer, manager. Is there any one of those that you love more than the other? I mean, typically itís the guys that arenít singing that are in management. (Laughs)

HAZAERT: You know, itís funny, I grew up on 80ís metal. In the 80ís there really werenít any boundaries. Like, ĎOh, SLAYER fans hated MOTLEY CRUE fansí. In my yard, where I grew up, I loved KING DIAMOND, and MOTLEY CRUE, AC/DC, GUNS Ní ROSES, JUDAS PRIEST, DOKKEN, WARRANT. It didnít matter. I listened to black metal and I listened to TRIXTER. I didnít care, you know? There was no division for me. Hereís the thing: My first vocal torches were like Axl Rose and Sebastian Bach. I couldnít really sing that then, you know? Then ALICE IN CHAINS came out, and that was more of my natural range. My first band I was in when I was 16-years old, we did like FEAR FACTORY and PANTERA and SLAYER covers. My next band was like bad ALICE IN CHAINS. We basically sounded like GODSMACK about 15 years before GGODSMACK came out. I always said that I didnít want to be in a band, for a bunch of reasons. You know, Iím a bigger guy and there were all these things in the music business then, like, you have to be skinny, you have to be cute. It just wasnít my thing, I was like, ĎIíll stay behind the scenes and do what I doí. Slowly, I wrote songs for people, I produced records for bands, but a lot of times, I was as good or better than they were, you know? David Eleffson was doing a bass story thing and he wanted somebody to come up and sing a MEGADETH song. I hadnít sang a fucking MEGADETH song since I was 15. So I got up and sang and he said, ĎOkay, tomorrow, weíre going to do this and this and thisí. Then we had the book coming out. We did this all-star Bass Story show in Tampa with me, Bumblefoot, Head from KORN, Dirk and David from MEGADETH obviously, Troy from MASTADON, theyíre all our buddies. We did this all-star jam and the next day, we were in our studio in Tampa called MasterSound, and we went in to write a song. We wrote this song called "Vultures". We tracked it in one day. I wrote the vocals literally in 10-minutes and tracked them. And we thought, cool, weíll release just a single with the book as a digital download. And then David had these other cool songs, and he was like, "here, why donít you write some of these too". And I was like, alright. "Sleeping Giants", I contacted DMC, heís a big metal guy, and I told him we were doing these songs for the book. I grew up with Hip Hop too. I love RUN DMC, and NWA.

KNAC.COM: I actually just watched the video for "Sleeping Giants". I loved it.

HAZAERT: It reminds me of a hardcore 90ís vibe. Like old BIOHAZARD videos. It was such an honor to have DMC, heís such a good friend and a good guy. He came and did a show in Amityville with us at the Revolution Club. He came and we did "Tricky" together and then we did "Sleeping Giants". Thatís actually where we filmed the video. As a side note, is like two-blocks from the Amityville Horror House.

KNAC.COM: Thatís so fun.

HAZAERT: So those songs, we were just going to put a little media download card in with the book, and we did all this other cool stuff. It turned into this cool record. Then we toured on it. We started a band. Itís a long way around to get back to your answer, Iíve always been a singer. I didnít try to do it professionally, it just kind of happened by accident. It basically took my favorite bass player, from my favorite band in my entire life to ask me to be in a band together. So what would it take for me to be in a band? David Ellefson has to ask. Itís such a cool, random thing. I got to play on the Megacruise. We did a really great tribute to Mustaine. Then Dirk and Kiko came up and jammed with us. Then Dave Mustaineís daughter Electra was there. She came up to me after. That was a hard thing, knowing she was there and youíre singing her dadís songs. She came up to me and said, ďThank you so much for doing this for my family. It was so great. You did my dad so proud.Ē I cried. You know? It was a hard, powerful moment. I mean, singing those songs, those are really big shoes to fill. You have to do it justice, especially being in a situation like that. I sang with Chris Poland at the Heavy Metal Hall of Fame induction at NAMM, and that was awesome. Phil Demmel played with us too. Me and Phil inducted Chris, and right after us was Steve Vai and Joe Satriani, they inducted each other. Then Chris got up and played with both of them and Geoff Tate. When we got off stage, after inducting Chris, I kind of brushed by Vai, and he turned around and said, ďHoly shit. You were fucking awesome.That was so much fun to watch.Ē What do you even say to that?

KNAC.COM: I told you at NAMM you need to get a T-shirt that says, ĎSteve Vai thinks Iím fucking awesomeí.

HAZAERT: Weíre actually announcing that weíre going to Japan and Australia in May. Me and David and Chris Poland to do a show in Osaka and Tokyo. And then weíre doing like 6-shows in Australia.

NOTE: Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, this tour has been postponed to February, 2021

KNAC.COM: David Ellefson is still doing the MEGADETH tour, right?

HAZAERT: Oh yeah. MEGA is in Europe, then theyíre going to go work on the record, then they have a little time off before the tour in June. We might go to Europe after MEGA winds down a little bit. When Dave got sick, it kind of helped us stay busy, and Dave stays busy. Weíre working on the new record now. Me and Dave (Ellefson) wrote a couple of new songs that are amazing.

NOTE: As of now, thereís not an official cancellation of the MEGADETH tour starting in June.

KNAC.COM: Do you still work with The Thom Hazaert Company, or THC?

HAZAERT: You know, I told you, I love 80ís stuff, I love buttrock stuff. That is more for 80ís, classic rock-centric genre. MALFUNKSHUN, I did on THC. Thatís Andy Wood from MOTHER LOVE BONEís band with his brother Kevin. They did this cool tribute record with Shawn Smith. THC is more my personal passion project.

KNAC.COM: You also produce films as well.

HAZAERT: I did some film stuff. I was a producer for Long Way to the Top that I got Phil Collen from DEF LEPPARD to be in it. It came out really cool. It won some festivals. I produced and directed some special features for Shout Factory and Scream Factory. I did stuff for People Under the Stairs and Army of Darkness. Shocker. Thatís actually how me and David reconnected. We met originally when he worked at Peavey as an A&R guy. I directed and produced a 30-minute short film about the Shocker soundtrack, thatís on the Blu Ray special edition of Shocker. I interviewed Desmond Child and Bruce Kulick, and Jason McMaster. It turned out really cool. Again, one of my favorite movies. I had a huge Shocker soundtrack movie poster hanging up over my desk.

KNAC.COM: Is Combat part of EMP?

HAZAERT: Technically, Combat is sort of an imprint of EMP, but we broke Combat off into its own LLC. Itís technically itís own company now. We started doing different stuff. We own the name Combat Records, and Sony bought all the catalogues. So we did a deal with Century Media, and reissued some of the catalogues. The first six just came out. Two of the DARK ANGEL records, Pleasure of the Flesh, Possessed, Bonded by Blood and Fabulous Disaster. So thatís why we broke it off as its own entity from EMP. As far as EMP, I kind of run the whole umbrella of stuff, Combat is its own standalone.

KNAC.COM: I know EMP takes on bands that are unsigned, and give them some promotion. How does that work?

HAZAERT: Honestly, itís a business. Sometimes bands come to us and they want to hire us. We do artist services too. The bands can hire Combat or EMP. Labels are really different now. The business is really different. You need to have a progressive business model. The reality is that a label used to go, ĎYeah, we really like your band, hereís a million-dollarsí. Itís like a co-op thing for us. The bigger artists, Ron Keel, Mark Slaughter, thatís a more traditional label structure. We figured out that we needed to figure out a different way to do this or we couldnít support the developing artists anymore. Thatís one of my biggest passions, is helping developing artists. We came up with a more artist services model. It still has to be a band that weíd sign anyway, itís not like you can buy your way onto our label. If you are one of the greatest bands Iíve ever heard and I fucking love you, and youíre interested in artist services, itís a conversation. I donít have 30-40-thousand dollars to dump into a band that I canít potentially get back. Thatís the reality of the music business that we live in now.

KNAC.COM: Is there a project youíre most proud of out of everything you do?

HAZAERT: To me, the most fun Iíve had is touring the world with David and the group. Thereís different rewards for different things. Some days itís a bigger financial reward. Everything I do, I feel like a ĎMake a Wishí kid, you know? Am I dying of cancer and nobody told me? Why the fuck me? Who am I, you know? Why did I get to go up onstage and basically sing with JUDAS PRIEST? I donít know. Right place, right time and a lot of hustle, I guess. Iím thankful for every minute of it. Itís all a blessing. I try not to think about it too much or my head will probably explode.

KNAC.COM: Oh! Speaking of your head exploding, Iím supposed to ask you about the time you caught on fire onstage.

HAZAERT: RAMMSTEIN tried to kill me. This is a great RAMMSTEIN story. Itís also a great Corey Taylor story. This was back in my drinking days and we were in the tail end of a few day binge in L.A. It was during the Pledge of Allegiance tour. We had a couple of days off between San Bernardino and Vegas and Corey stayed at my apartment. And he slept on the floor in my bedroom. (Laughing) It was one of our sleepovers. We were driving to Vegas, and first off, Corey decided he was going to dress like Raoul Duke aka Hunter S. Thompson. We walked around Vegas for two-hours trying to find an Alcapulco shirt, a Las Vegas visor, a cigarette holder and yellow aviators, which we did. And Corey spent the entire day running around dressed like Hunter S. Thompson and talking like Hunter S. Thompson. Anyway, we get to the show and when RTAMMSTEIN, God I hate saying their fucking name, whenever that German band was onstage, and thereís signs everywhere that say, ĎNo one onstage during RAMMSTEIN. This means youí. Corey Taylor being Corey Taylor says, ďCome on, weíre going on the fucking stage.Ē Iím like, but Corey...So we walk past these signs and itís like a cartoon. Wrong way. Do not go this way. Stop. Donít go. Piano falls on you and you keep going. So weíre standing on the side of the stage and weíre watching RAMMSTEIN and out of nowhere, a 40-foot flame pot goes off an inch in front of my fucking face.

KNAC.COM: Theyíre no bullshit. They use bombs. (Laughing)

HAZAERT: Unbelievable. That just shows you the power that Corey Taylor has. I was at a show a while back, and the band had pyro, and we were told we couldnít stand by the stage. There was like pyro 20-feet from where we were standing. But not with Corey. I was literally standing on the flame pot and nobody said a fucking thing. Either they really hated us and wanted us to die or they were just that in terror of Corey that they just wouldnít say a fucking word. Itís funny, I found a picture of us the day after. Iím wearing the fucking visor and me Corey had just won a particularly intense game of air hockey, and weíre all sweaty, and in the picture you can see my singed fucking eyebrows. Yeah, James Hetfield, Michael Jackson, it was almost that level of not good.

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