While Waterloo Region has always been known as an arts-focused, cultural and diverse hub, it might surprise you that it’s also the home base for Profound Lore Records, a metal record label that just celebrated their 185th release.
The person behind the label is Chris Bruni, a Mississauga native who moved to KW eight years ago to pursue his dream of turning his side project into a full time gig.
After taking a public relations post-graduate program at Seneca College, Bruni couldn’t find work in his field. Times were tough, financially, for a few years. He even sold some of his vinyl collection to make ends meet.
“It was really, really hard for those two years after I graduated,” he said.
Bruni has a long history with the metal scene. He wrote for metal magazines and zines in the ‘90s.
When he eventually found a day job in Mississauga, he was still involved in the metal scene in his spare time.
“I’ve always been connected to the metal scene,” he said. “I just built up a network of people. [I got to know] people at labels [and in] bands.”
He started Profound Lore Records as a side project, more so a hobby than a sustainable career, but when things started picking up, he quit his day job and moved to Kitchener to devote all of his time to the success of the label.
“I wanted to lend more of my time to [the label] and not be distracted by a regular day job,” he said.
Bruni decided to give himself a year to see if he could actually pull it off, if he could actually turn his hobby and passion into a career. Eventually, things began to take flight.
“Revenue was coming in, distributor statements were coming in. I was starting to get more money,” he said.
Since then, the label has excelled, Bruni has been consistently representing bands and he has been able to maintain financial stability.
“It was the one thing that gave some purpose to my life. I love music. This is something I love doing. It was a creative outlet. It was just something that kept me sane.”
Before talking to Bruni, I had a very romanticized vision of what owning a record label would entail, and quite frankly, that vision didn’t really seem possible in KW. But, oddly enough, Bruni really only represents bands from the U.S. and Europe. He explained that the work that he does could be done virtually from anywhere. He essentially monitors bands’ schedules to ensure that releases will happen on time, talks to distribution companies, pays the bills and manages finances.
While Waterloo Region does have a hardcore scene, Bruni isn’t really interested in it.
“I’ve always known it to be an artistic and cultural community,” Bruni said when asked “why KW?”
“There’s a lot of things going on here [and] it’s the right distance from the GTA.”
At any given time, Bruni is working with several bands in varying capacities. Some bands will only do a one-off with him, whereas other bands will put out two or three records with Profound Lore. He looks for bands that can be categorized by being uncategorized.
“The kind of metal I do, it’s eclectic, it’s darker. There’s a sense of artistry to it. Some of the stuff I release is not really defined as metal, itself,” Bruni said.
He explained that his stuff isn’t “good time, easy going metal.”
And he doesn’t restrict himself to only metal, either. Two years ago he released a noise album by an artist called Prurient and last year he released a hip hop album by Dälek, both of which are darker and more experimental.
“I like to challenge the listener with the stuff I put out. I like to push their listening threshold,” he said.
Bruni said that when he does veer away from metal, he always receives good feedback; no one seems confused.
His biggest release just happened this past March. Profound Lore released Heartless, a metal album by Arkansas based band, Pallbearer. This was the third album Bruni did with Pallbearer and will be his highest selling so far.
In May, Profound Lore also released Trumpeting Ecstasy by Full of Hell, a metal band from Maryland, which recently received a positive review from Pitchfork.
A common topic of conversation in the music world as of late is the digitalization of music and how labels are staying afloat when music can be so easily accessed without paying for it. Bruni said that has never been a real concern for him.
“Luckily I’m involved in a niche scene where people like to buy CDs. And of course with the resurgence of vinyl, it’s been huge, as well. I do decently with CDs. With each band, we have a certain expectation and we meet it,” he said.
When I asked what his biggest achievement was, his answer was simple.
“Keeping this thing sustainable is a big achievement in itself,” he said.
“I’m not really looking to become bigger, or anything. I like where I’m at right now. I’d like to expand to work with more different kinds of artists. I just want to remain sustainable and consistent with what I do and [maintain] the quality of what I do. [I’d like to] try to explore new things, new avenues. What those are, I don’t know. Anything could come up.”