When you’re passionate about your craft you need only add hard work and some street smarts to edge closer to your ultimate ambition. Such is the moral of the Cleopatra Records legacy, a distant dream almost two decades ago (a century in today’s market). The mid ’80s were a magical time in the Los Angeles music scene. The energy, the glamour, the excess…all hitting a frenzied peak. A young entrepreneur named Brian Perera was in the thick of it all, beginning his career by making and marketing T-shirts and swag in his Southern California garage for rising stars like Guns N’ Roses and Jane’s Addiction. With a desire to release an out-of-print Motorhead and a rapid-fire mind that quickly learned the ins and outs of the record industry, BP purchased the license, distributed and marketed what would be the first of thousands of releases on the soon to explode Cleopatra Records roster.
The mid ’90s by contrast were all about the independent spirit. The Glam & Sleaze rock scene Perera helped promote a decade prior had ballooned beyond anyone’s control and crashed to Earth as the Alternative movement, devouring anything that smelled of Corporate stadium rock. One dark faction of this new breed was the second wave of Gothic Rock or “Goth” to be proper. With that instinctual premonition and support of the original L.A. Goth havens like Helter Skelter, Retail Slut and Vinyl Fetish, Cleopatra was a welcome home for the leaders of this pack (Gary Numan, Christian Death, Alien Sex Fiend, Rosetta Stone…). Years before the fashion was bottled and sold at suburban malls, pioneers like Cleopatra’s early guard: Electric Hellfire Club, Switchblade Symphony, Front Line Assembly, Die Krupps, Spahn Ranch, Leather Strip and Razed In Black were bashing their way through the woofers and across the dancefloors of Industrial clubs world wide.
As electronic music mutated, the company (with the assistance of wife Yvonne Perera and publicist Brian McNelis) worked like a railroad crew, staying a few steps ahead, laying the tracks for the genre to ride onward. Top dance acts like Future Sound Of London and Loop Guru would send the Hypnotic Records offshoot into the stratosphere. Rave culture expanded to define a large segment of a chemical generation and Hypnotic was there to chronicle its stars like Crystal Method and its misunderstood adherents on the award winning documentary DVD: Better Living Through Circuitry. Later the label would also release groundbreaking works from the hottest DJs on the planet; Paul Oakenfold and Superstar DJ Keoki as well as seeking new talent like the rising Effcee.
As Hip Hop continues to dominate the charts, Cleopatra’s partner in crime, X-Ray records carries on the tradition set by SX-10, KRS-One, and the Roots Of Rap posse by partnering with Navarre Distribution to produce the DVD Gangsta Rap godfathers, Westside Connection! In 2005, X-Ray had it’s biggest success yet with the release of the solo album of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony alum, Layzie Bone. The album, It’s Not A Game, features guest appearances by Snoop Dogg, Twista, Layzie’s brother Krayzie Bone, and others. In the first week of its release, the album landed on the Billboard Top 100 chart – a monumental first for Cleopatra Records!
Lesser known perhaps, but no less vibrant in Cleopatra Family, were imprint labels like Stardust (who’s classic reissues of giants like Billie Holiday, Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Lena Horn, Elvis Presley, and James Dean are amongst the finest looking packages you’ll see in the Jazz and oldies bins of your local retailer) and Goldenlane Records (Marvin Gaye, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Leadbelly, B.B. King, Little Richard…). And of course, a fan favorite Purple Pyramid Records brought monsters like Yes, Santana, Jimmy Page, Hawkwind, and Ian Gillan back to appreciative album collectors seeking those rare gems for their collections.
With a staff highly comprised of former Metal Blade and Century Media employees like Tim Yasui and Jason Myers, it was only a matter of time before the metal focus came back around. Having already put out slabs from the likes of Venom, Tiamat, Enthroned and star-studded tributes to Slayer, Metallica and Cradle Of Filth the Cleopatra coven were no strangers to metal’s darker side. In 2003 the Magick Records imprint was established with the unleashing of Black/Death Metal new blood, Wehrwolfe. In the following years, the Magick roster exploded with some of the best acts in Power, Goth and Death Metal from around the globe – the fabled Icarus Witch, underground favorites Twisted Tower Dire, old-school black metal band from Germany, Negator, the all female death metal trio, Flowing Tears, and a whole lot more. Many iconic books of these genres have been published through the label, from Gothic Rock, Industrial Revolution, Space Daze, The Ozzy Osborne Story and the currently hot Hollywood Rocks! coffee table homage to the Hair Metal faithful. Most recently, the label has explored the world of psychedelic rock, carrying the music of Brainticket and Quicksilver Messenger Service.
2012 promises to be one filled with nostalgia and metal madness, the likes of which haven’t been felt since the early days when Brian and his friends were just happy to be a part of the Hollywood scene, let alone adding fresh fuel to the fire. Enjoy the ride, boyz and ghouls. Cleopatra certainly is!