Darragh O’ Laoghaire (Invictus Productions/Vircolac)

Ireland is a place that gave to metal more than you can expect. Since 1999, invictus Productions has a key role in the extreme scene, that gained respect thanks to high quality releases and bands that you can recognize for their unique style and personality. If you followed the underground in the last years you probably just heard about Gospel of The Horns, Vomitor, Portal, Tribulation, Demonomancy, Solstice, Negative Plane, Malokarpatan or Antediluvian. It also helped irish bands like ZOM, Malthusian and Coscradh to have a bigger audience out of the country. Darragh O’ Laoghaire is the man beside this project and now, after almost 20 years of hard work this is his full time job.

Invictus Productions will turn 20 years old in 2019 and it’s becoming a bigger label and now is your full time job. It was hard for you to find the right time to work on it during all these years? What records are you planning to release in the next months?

Yep, 2019 will mark 20 years of the label’s existence. Quite a feat in and of itself, I think. Circumstances dictated that it became my full time job rather than me setting out specifically to achieve such. Back in 2006 I did leave my job to pursue the label as a full time thing, which lasted for about a year before I went back working part time and subsequently onto university for 4 years. When I finished university, a gang of us had come together to open a record and tattoo show here in Dublin called Into the Void Records, which lasted from February 2011 until December 2014. During this time I was managing the shop and running the label at the same time. The shop, sadly, had to take second place to everything as the label was growing and eventually we all decided to put the shop to bed and move on, with me focusing solely on Invictus.
Moving over from the label effectively being a bedroom hobby to a full time job wasn’t a simple transition, that’s for sure but I got there and here we are.

Release wise, over the coming months, I have the Spite LP ‘Antimoshiach’, Malthusian ‘Across Deaths’ album, Coscradh EP, Apologoethia EP, Qrixkuor comp LP and Three Devils repress, Demonomancy LP, Antiversum LP amongst others. Plenty to keep me occupied.

The bands you’ve released does not sound like the avarage extreme bands (deeply rooted in a genre) and their music sounds quite unique. What are the things should have a band to get signed on Invictus?

I get about 50 or so emails a week from bands looking for me to release something by them. Generally, they all get deleted and I might check one or two things out of boredom or morbid curiosity. It always ends up the same, “why did I bother?” ha! These days I normally hear something or get recommended something that I pursue myself because something appeals to me about it. It’s literally that simple. Not everything I do is to everyone’s taste, naturally, but I have to like it in that moment. That’s principally what matters.

Sometimes you also organize live concerts like the Unconquered Darkness Fest. How is the scene going in Ireland now? There are many people interested in the underground live shows comparing to 20 years ago?

The underground here as always been tiny and most if not all of us know one another even to say hello to. I’ve been organised shows longer than I have been doing the label but it’s not something I enjoy as much as I used to anymore. I still organise the odd show here and there, of course. Most underground shows here will get between 50 – 120 people. Bigger underground bands, like Rotting Christ, do quite well with between 3-400 people. The gulf between both underground scenes is huge though. Compared to 20 years ago, it’s a lot different now of course and we’re all a lot fuckin older!

darraghinvictus

Darragh out of the Invictus office in Dublin

What is the meaning behind the “Heathen Resistance – Era Vulgaris” statement on your label logo? Is this something connected with the irish folklore?

The heathen resistance thing was meant as a literal “fuck you!” to the overarching, Catholic religious structure that had frozen Ireland in its grip. It was a statement of defiance against a religion that had, in the main, created huge schisms in Irish society and contributed to a profoundly austere approach to how we were as a people. Of course, underneath the respectable veil of Catholicism lurked the brutality and horror of its reign and this all began to come to light in the late 80s and early 90s, opening up our entire society to a reappraisal of what the church actually meant.

So, given my revulsion towards the stringent dogma of Catholicism and having a pre Christian history rich in lore and very much alive, I identified more with that as a person and so the ‘heathen resistance’ angle became a concept for the label.

Back in the nineties you had two fanzines, Ancient Wisdom and Dlú Ceanghaill Fuil, that you’ve run with Alan from Primordial. What do you remember of these days? There were some other fanzines that inspired you to make one by yourself?

The first one, Ancient Wisdom, I made in 1996 by myself. I first attempted a zine in 1993 but it never materialised. I think everyone back in those days who was involved in tape trading attempted a zine! It took me about 2 years to finally get Ancient Wisdom put together. It was a lot of fun doing it and of course gave me the feeling of contributing and being involved in the whole underground. I didn’t write to labels for promos or anything. That wasn’t the point.

The second one, Dlú Cheangail Fuil (Bond of Blood) we did in 1997/98 and it was a bit more I suppose, ‘mature’. We were trying to be clever and intelligent with questions, articles and reviews as well as being smart arses about things. Again, it was a lot of fun. One lasting memory from then was flyers I made for it using an image of an IRA volunteer and Alan nearly shit the bed when he saw it as he thought it was too much. Those flyers didn’t last long haha! Was a stupid thing to do but I was 21 and so stupid ideas are par for the course when you’re young. If they’re not, you’ve missed out on half of what’s fucking great about being young!
You sing in a death metal band, Vircolac, that has released two demos and one ep. Are you planning to do a full length album and more dates outside Ireland?

We are recording our full length in October this year for release in March 2019, all going to plan. Last show outside of Ireland we did was in Holland in February but I imagine we will have some more shows lined up once the LP comes out. Three of us in the band are old farts and two of ’em have kids as well as full time jobs so getting time off for shows can be difficult. We don’t play live a huge amount, which is fine with me but I do hope to do some more shows once the LP comes out and hopefully do a small/short tour as well in Europe!

Last Vircolac release, The Cursed Travails Of The Dementer

You’ve released several bands from Australia and one of these is Gospel of The Horns. How did your collaboration with them started?

Basically, back in ’99, Steve Hughes from Slaughter Lord and the then bassist from Destroyer 666, Simon Turner, moved to Ireland and we met up with them and became friends. Simon had a tape full of Aussie stuff from the late 90s like the second Gospel demo ‘Sinners’, Razor of Occam’s demo, Armoured Angel and so forth aknd I played that fucking tape to death. I started writing to Destroyer & Gospel, distributed their records and merch here and I knew Gospel was coming here in the summer of 2000 so organised their show here with Primordial in July 2000! They stayed in my house for a week and we became fast friends. The rest as they say…is history!

Debut lp by the aussie warmongers

What are your best selling releases? And what are the ones you liked most?

Gospel of the Horns, Tribulation, Bölzer, Solstice, Malokarpatan, Negative Plane to name a few. I like many of ’em but honestly, the album that was a game changer for me with the label in terms of where things started to move was The Formulas of Death so it has a special place in the pantheon of Invictus releases in that regard but Stained Glass Revelations, A Call to Arms, the Malthusian MMXIII demo, the ZOM ‘Flesh Assimilation’ album are ones that mean a lot in many respects.

An obscure and gloomy black metal masterpiece

You come from Cork but you relocated in Dublin years ago. Do you think that starting a label there could be more difficult than in Dublin?

Well, the reason I moved from Cork to Dublin was because by the mid 90s, the metal scene in Cork was eviscerated and there was nothing at all happening. So much so that by the late 90s, I had organised shows from Dublin in Cork. The scene there was dead in the water. No bands, no gigs, no interest. Everyone had fucked off into the rave scene and was taking ecstasy, cutting their hair and wearing sports clothes.

By 1994, when I had finished school, I was in contact mostly with people in Dublin through mail and phone calls and a gang of us went to London in December 1994 to see Cradle of Filth for an album release show. Everyone I went with, bar a couple of the lads, was either in a band, doing a zine or something like that in Dublin so it made sense to eventually move there and so I did. The label idea came later on and starting it in Ireland was difficult no matter where it was started. We just don’t have the same kind of ‘scenes’ that exist elsewhere.

Coscradh! A great exemple of irish black/death

Do you listen to some bands from Italy?

Truthfully, Demonomancy is the only band I really listen to from Italy. I’ve never been a fan of Mortuary Drape, Death SS or Paul Chain. I don’t mind Black Hole but other than that, Demonomancy is king.

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