Mailorders have always been a huge part of the metalscene. Some have been around for a long time, others are brand new. Some are thriving while others refuse to adapt to an ever changing scene and die a slow death. One of those thriving ones is the Dutch mailorder HappyFace Vinyl. I’ve known the owner Manfred van Zadelhoff for quite some time now and I thought it would be a nice idea to see how business was going.
So, for how long have you been wandering the metal scene and what bands paved the way for you?
I guess it was around 1980 that I took my first steps in the world of metal. When I was 14 years old I went to see KISS in concert. My first band was called Whiplash, which I had with Dennis Hartog (Currently part of Sinister) and some others. Later on I founded LWS after Whiplash fell apart. After that En Masse and Mac-11. Around 2005 I founded Rusty Cage Records and Happy Face has been around since 1998. You could say I’ve had a metalheart since 1980…
What style of metal do you prefer?
Tough one. I started out with NWOBHM… It’s still mainly speed and thrash…
Do you feel your preferences shine through in Happy Face’s assortment? Do you tend to have more thrash and speed for sale than anything else?
Of course I have a lot of NWOBHM, speed and thrash for sale… But also black and death are great for sales. Unfortunately it’s getting more and more difficult to buy second hand collections these days. That’s why I started selling new items a couple of years ago.
So your specialty used to be second hand merchandise?
Do you have an explanation for the fact there are less private collections for sale?
Basically the well has dried out. Especially vinyl has become so popular that everyone thinks they can get 25 bucks or more for every second hand LP. That’s not very realistic…
Are you someone that visits things like garage sales and jumble sales to find those hidden gems?
No, not really. Jumble sales aren’t what they used to be anymore.
Too much junk and no quality?
Exactly. Of course you can get a lucky break…Years ago I was able to buy a great collection each month from someone for a good price. Nowadays a year can go by and nothing. Maybe 5 or 10 CD’s or LP’s a time and steep prices…
WORKING HARD, OR HARDLY WORKING? YOU DECIDE!
Do you think this is part of the reason that bootleg sales have gone up lately? I mean less people are willing to sell their stuff while more people want to buy certain titles.
Bootlegs can be a great option. And I’m sure that’s the reason they’re so popular… People love to buy them… Personally I hate bootlegs of originals though. I’d rather have a boot of a cool live show or something.
And does it matter how that live show sounds for sales? I never hear people asking how the sound quality is?
I personally feel that quality is very important, but you’re right, I hardly get questions about that. People just want to have it and it disappears in their collection.
And what about releasing something yourself?
I released the latest BARK album, but that was more a favor for some friends. Great band by the way! Do you know them?
No sorry, never heard of ‘em.
Pffff. Some journalist you are… Watch this! I’m curious what you think of them.
Sounds pretty good. Nice and raw. You’re lucky of course I let you promote your friends right now!
But was this a onetime thing, or are you thinking about releasing more material yourself?
Maybe when it’s for friends, but I don’t want to put too much energy into something like this. It takes up too much of my time and time is something I don’t have too much of.
What do you mean you haven’t got the time? All I see on your Facebook page is you sitting in your chair with your feet on the table and a beer in front of you?!
Hahaha! If you use Facebook correctly people get the idea you’re drinking beer all day and you’re always on vacation!
Hahaha!… Well, we’ve been mostly talking about vinyl, but what about the good ol’ CD?
I buy them second hand and now and then I sell a new release, but it’s become pretty difficult product. I have to buy them for about 12 euro and sell them for 14. I’d rather sell for a nice even price of 10 euro. That’s why I’d rather buy private collections.
So what you’re saying is that vinyl is easier to sell and your profit margins are higher?
Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying… On second hand CD’s the margin is even higher of course.
I noticed you don’t use a website for selling your merchandise, only Facebook. Why?
Maintaining a website is a lot of work. You have to update it all the time. Every time you either buy or sell something. I simply do not have the time for that. Besides, selling my merch via Facebook is going great. Of course I’d sell a lot more if I had a website, but for now I’ll keep things the way they are.
What about quitting your regular job and doing this for a living? Is that a possibility?
I’m still not sure. I don’t know if doing this full time is an option. Maybe cutting down on the hours of my regular job, but because I work in shifts that’s going to be difficult. But, never say never!
But you do feel that you could make that work financially?
Yes, I think it could work, but it’s a big step to take. Now it’s just extra, but if you have to live off of it, that’s a whole other story.
What’s the deal with your beer brand, HappyFace Beer? It may have started out as a joke, but you even made Tshirts for it and I saw bandmembers of bands like Obituary wear them on stage.
It was never a joke. I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to do. The idea was to brew a Tripel for Happy Face Vinyl… Soon that idea changed and I wanted to brew different kinds of beer with a recognizable logo. Of course I needed a brewer for this and some other people. The main brewer is Rob Zwaan and the co-owners are Patrick Karssen and Ed Zwaan. We just finished the testing phase and we’re ready to start with the main batches! Because of my contacts in the music world the promotion is quite easy. The “Bock” Tshirt sells pretty well indeed and the beer tastes great!
MANFRED, TREVOR PERES (OBITUARY), PATRICK KARSSEN
Those contacts you mentioned aren’t just any contacts. Gary Holt for instance… Do you know people like him because you’ve been around for so long or is it business as usual?
It’s because of my past and contacts I made back in the day. I know Gary Holt through my mate Rick Ambrose. And when you’ve been to so many shows and been backstage as much as I have you just get to know people. Also from the LWS period I have a lot of contacts and I’ve been told I’m great in maintaining contacts!
I thought that hanging out backstage was more of a groupie thing? So… how well DO you know Gary Holt?
Well, there are groupies there, but not so much with the older bands… That’s all I have to say about this as I feel it’s not relevant to the interview, haha!
I decide what’s relevant and what’s not around here and don’t you forget it! But, because I’m all about keeping the peace I’ll move on… Is there a certain goal you’d like to achieve with Happy Face? Both with selling music and brewing beer?
I really look forward of seeing how far we can go with Happy Face Beer and what step we’ll take next… The mailorder is something I really enjoy doing and if the money’s good it’s an easy choice!!! Main goal is getting all the Happy Face products out there as much as possible!!! And things are looking great!