Long Live the Cryptkeeper: an interview with Ken Escobedo
I love the metal community. It is my church, my people. Corny as that all sounds, metal is my religion and my most favorite thing in life. When Nick and I launched Metal With Reason, we decided we wanted to plug content creators as much as we cover our favorite musicians as well.
Ken Escobedo is a father, husband, and he runs Ken’s Death Metal Crypt, a YouTube channel comprised of the single most impressive collection of old school American death metal recordings that I have ever seen, as well as some reviews and other videos of Ken sharing his wisdom. For five years, Ken has been benevolently sharing his dragon’s hoard of OSDM, giving his thousands of fans a glimpse into the underground death metal scene of the 80’s-90’s and beyond. Ken’s Death Metal Crypt is just as the name says, a conclusive repository of some of the rarest cuts of death metal that can be found.
A few months back, Ken was gracious enough to answer some questions for Nick and me. Check them out below, but only after you’ve subscribed to Ken’s channel and spent some time perusing his library of brutality.
Tell us a little about yourself and your channel.
My name is Ken Escobedo and I’m a 49 year old metal head. I bought my first heavy metal record at age 12 and haven’t looked back since. I was heavily involved with bands, zines, and tape trading back in the early 90’s. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s I was involved in a few labels. Now days, I’m the vocalist of the band UNNATURAL and run the You Tube channel Ken’s Death Metal Crypt. Been happily married for 20 years and we have a 14 year old son! That’s it in a nutshell!
You were heavily involved in the tape trade. How did you get into that? Do you have the first tape you picked up/received?
Yes, in the early 90’s I was heavily involved with tape trading and traded with people from all over the globe. It was actually around 1989 that I met Brad Buldak (Ex-Bassist/Vocalist MORGUE, Bassist/Vocalist ABSCONDER). We were in our late teens and he was doing a fanzine called Grimm Death. I bought a copy from him for a dollar and in the zine there was a section for tape trader ads. I asked him what that was and he explained the underground tape trading network to me. I immediately went home and made a list of whatever music I owned at the time and started sending my list out to traders. I tape traded for 2-3 years and acquired a few hundred cassettes during that time. Ha Ha… I’m sure I do have the first tape I received, but I honestly don’t remember which tape it is. I don’t sell or throw anything away, so it’s here, I would just have to go back through my letters to find it.
When did you notice that underground tape trading started to fall off? Have you noticed an uptick more recently?
I stopped tape trading around 1993-94 and did trade with 1 or 2 people in the late 90’s, but in the early 2000’s tapes started to die out. Bands and labels pretty much put cassettes on the back burner and everyone started using the CD-R format. I got a little in the CD-R trading, but not like I did with tape trading. I noticed cassette labels and the resurgence of cassettes in general started happing about 5 years ago. The last couple of years I’ve seen tape trading or dub (as they are called) networks forming all over social media.
Do you have larger plans for your archive beyond a YouTube Channel?
Larger plans? Ha Ha… No, not really. I enjoy my music collection immensely so it will remain with me until the end of my days. Once I’m gone, it will be up to my family what happens to my music collection. Although my son is not into METAL, he claims that he would never sell the collection and would keep it in its entirety to pass down to his children and grandchildren. We’ll see. Ha Ha, but I’m hoping to stick around for many more years.
When and how did you get into death metal?
I bought my first heavy metal record at age 12. As I started getting into more Heavy Metal, I was always drawn to the heavier bands it seemed, so it was a natural progression for me. In the late 80’s I would see ads for and eventually bought the first POSSESSED LP. That was my first real taste of death metal. In 1988 I was at a local music store and bought a record there strictly based on the cover. It was DEATH’s Scream Bloody Gore. After that, I just started finding other bands that were suggested. Friends like Brad and magazines/fanzines helped me identify bands I’d be interested in. So really, I’m not sure there was ever a time or place when I can say I got into death metal. Being into metal music at an early age, it was just a natural progression.
What’s your most un-metal guilty pleasure music?
To be honest, I don’t really listen to or buy anything except METAL. Ha Ha… I listen to a little punk rock now and then, but really I pretty much just listen to METAL. Some days I just wanted to listen to Death Metal, some days it’s Black Metal. It just all depends on what my mood is at the time, but it’s mostly always METAL.
What’s your dream bill of defunct death metal bands?
RIPPING CORPSE, PUTIFACT, MORTAL DREAD and CARRION LORD. Doesn’t matter what order, I just love all these bands and their demos and never got a chance to see any of these bands live. This would be a wonderful show for me! There are probably more though.
Have any bands reacted adversely to you posting their music?
Have any reached out in thanks/praise? I’ve only ever had one person from a band send me a message about the sound of the demo I posted. I explained that I don’t adjust, hinder or change anything from my source. I just record it and convert it into a WAV file. It’s posted to the channel as exactly how I heard it. After 2-3 messages back and forth about how I should make it sound better and re-post it, I removed the video. I will not post any recording from that particular band on my channel again. I get an amazing amount of thanks and support from bands, labels and people all the time. Everyone has been great and the support has been unreal. It’s so humbling and inspiring to see so much support to the channel.
The extreme metal scene has obviously changed over the decades. What have been some changes you’ve welcomed and some you’ve not been so stoked about?
TECHNOLOGY. The internet is a great way for bands to get their music out to the masses in a very quick and efficient way. Bands and labels today can use technology to help promote and gain business. I think technology has been the biggest change over the last decades that have been the most welcomed. On the flip side of the coin, technology, especially social media, has its flaws. People, bands and labels alike are all too often immersed in “He said, She said” wars. Keyboard warriors are also a huge nuisance. Some people just need to chill.
What one major change would you make to the metal scene (if anything at all)?
I honestly have no idea. As long as everyone gets along and bands, labels and fans alike can have common ground to share and converse about metal, then I wouldn’t change anything. The underground is alive and well. Let’s all keep it that way.