625 emerged from my experience of having to release my early bands, since in the late-1980s raw, fast thrash or grindcore was wildly unpopular in my area. No one would book us, and no record label would help us. So we had to do it ourselves. For example, the first two records I was involved in releasing – the PLUTOCRACY/976/SIROTA – Split 7″EP (1990) and the PLUTOCRACY/APROCTOUS Split Flexi 7″ (1991) – were done by the bands. With this experience, and with more bands playing fast raw HC or grindcore in my area, I decided to start 625 in 1993 to help support these bands, including: NO LESS, EVOLVED TO OBLITERATION, MORBID LIFE SOCIETY, AGENTS OF SATAN, GODSTOMPER, UTTER BASTARD, etc. The objective then was to get a release out so that other, bigger labels may hear these bands and ask them to do a record (or tour, or show)

Around the early 1990s, other bands that had originally been shunned by their local scenes were doing the same thing, and through a network of letter writing, tape and record trading, an international scene started to be built. At this time, I got to know the dudes from CAPITALIST CASUALTIES from the northbay, Manabu from Blurred Records/SENSELESS APOCALYPSE from Japan, Denis Cullen from ATMOSFEAR zine, the EXCRUCIATING TERROR dudes in Los Angeles, Keule of RODEL RECORDS and Carsten of PINK FLAMINGOS in Germany, Dallas, Scot and Tad from CROSSED OUT, et al. We traded records, informed each other of our respective local scenes, and hosted each other when we visited each others cities/countries. These bands were influenced by the same bands I had been listening to in the 1980s, and their bands and efforts soon became my new source of inspiration.

Thus, once the rawer and faster versions of this HC scene was generalized as “power violence” in the mid-1990s, and through my activities in SPAZZ, I was able to extend the original 625 objective to international bands, and try to find new, young bands that played honest, DIY fast HC thrash or grindcore that I thought I could support, or reissue older bands such as PROTES BENGT, HHH or SPITFIRE that had been groundbreaking for playing high-speed HC/punk that was now being categorized as “thrash” or “powerviolence.”

By the late-1990s/early-2000s, 625 was busy releasing records by new bands such as CRUCIAL SECTION (Japan), FAR LEFT LIMIT (Australia), DEAD END (Sweden), EDORA (Singapore), DISCARGA (Brazil), HATRED SURGE (TX), SECRET SEVEN (Singapore), IRON LUNG (NV), THE KILL (Australia), JELLYROLL ROCKHEADS (Japan), DOMESTIK DOKTRIN (Indonesia), INSECT WARFARE (TX), etc., many of which went on to work with labels that were better able to distribute their records and support the bands. At this point, there was a wide array of labels focusing on various subgenres of fast HC, powerviolence, grindcore, thrash, etc., and I started to trust that if 625 didn’t put out a new band that I thought needed support, someone else would. It was also at this time, that I decided to stop playing music and focus on my studies, entering a PhD program in 2004. I had only so much time and brain capacity, so I made the decision to dedicate all my time to my studies. Although 625 continued to release a few records in the 2000s and 2010s, all my time and energy was focused on completing the PhD and then securing an academic job.

Consequently, in the 2000s and 2010s, I did not follow the new permutations of fast HC, thrash, powerviolence and grindcore. I kept in touch with my friends and continued to check out their bands. But many of the new bands I randomly found on YouTube departed so much from what I originally understood this scene to be, that I feared I was becoming the cranky old cynical punk who couldn’t understand the new generation. In particular, I was worried that the scene was venturing off into realms that I could not support, including working with corporate sponsors, signing with metal labels, making professional music videos, playing big metal festivals, or organizing reunion shows with thousand dollar guarantees. This was very different from the underground network of bands, zines and tape traders that had inspired me so much when I was younger.

Fast forward to the late-2010s, with a tenure review and my first book behind me, I was able to go to more shows and see new bands – particularly during my annual visits to Tokyo Japan – but also in my new home of Burlington Vermont. The more I reconnected to the scene, the more I realized there were bands and people who were still playing and supporting honest, DIY fast HC thrash and grindcore. Additionally, I kept in touch with old friends and became more active in releasing their newer bands; for example, my dear friend Max Kahone’s new band INTERNAL ROT (Australia), Mau-kun of FLIPOUT A.A (Tokyo), Graem’s new band MELLOW HARSHER (WI), or Matt’s new powerviolence band VOID BRINGER (Vermont). For me, these were bands that kept true to the DIY ethic and played honest fast thrash without all the bells and whistles you see so much of these days. I also reconnected with bands from my hometown – both younger bands like HEALER, as well as bands consisting of my old friends and bandmates, like REDACTED, HARD FOUL or THESE BASTARDS. And I have started to discover, under the layers of posturing and gimmicks, there is a strong current of new, younger bands that have taken inspiration from the earlier scene and are carrying the torch of playing honest, DIY, fast thrash/grindcore. It is those bands that I would like to support through 625.

Upon reflection, it seems very unusual that my original tastes in punk or metal have not evolved much farther than the bands I was listening to in the 1980s as a teenager, such as HERESY, DRI, NAPALM DEATH, LARM, CxOxC, SxOxB or INFEST. The scene has most definitely evolved since then, in ways that sometimes I do not understand or support. But sifting through the many layers of scenes and subgenres, my intention is to continue the original aim of 625: namely, releasing new, younger bands, playing honest, fast HC/thrash/grind, without pretensions or posturing.

PLAY FAST & STAY FAST!Max/625 (July 2020)

For more information about 625, check out THIS INTERVIEW published in Maximum RockNRoll many decades ago.