by Sandy Serge

Mascot Records, located in The Netherlands has a versatile roster catering particularly to the metal and hard rock audience. Owner and founder Ed Van Zijl has taken many 70's and 80's artists under his wing, releasing solo albums by artists such as John Norum, Leslie West, Tony Levin and Paul Gilbert with one of his most recent project releases being the first solo CD by vocalist Kelly Keeling. Mascot also sports a blues division - Mascot-Provogue - which boasts such blues guitar greats as Walter Trout.
Van Zijl, born in Rotterdam in The Netherlands, grew up interested in a wide variety of musical styles and decided he wanted a job in the music biz. He loved music from his early teens on. Van Zijl took it upon himself to relentlessly pound on every door he could until one day, he was finally hired by a music wholesaler to work in a warehouse. The warehouse job opened doors for van Zijl at a variety of music companies which eventually led him to Roadrunner Records. At Roadrunner, van Zijl spent time on the road with bands such as Venom and Metallica during their first European tour. He gained a plethora of experience and became a jack of all trades with positions from stock control to shipping to distribution, promotion, marketing, and, eventually, label management. Van Zijl caught the bug - he longed to start his own label so in 1990, while still employed with Roadrunner, he founded Mascot Records and released the first album. He put his blood, sweat and tears into his own label in his spare time, but left the first release and his job at Roadrunner by the wayside in 1992 to pursue a career in advertising. Van Zijl realized that advertising was big mistake and was not for him, so instead of begging Roadrunner for his job back, he continued to pursue the dream of owning his own label.
The early days at Mascot were by no means easy. Although the label was found in 1990 and well-grounded by 1993, van Zijl claims "the main and most difficult thing at that time was getting good (and reliable) distributors as well as a roster. Like now, the early nineties was a time of recession, too. I started out with domestic bands (The Netherlands) and then two great Scandinavian bands (B-Thong and Eleven Pictures). After that we signed our first US bands and it just kept on growing." When asked what he has done since Mascot's inception to keep the label growing and stable, van Zijl remarks, "My main drive is to release quality music. Everything we release is focused around great musicians and mainly the guitar, be it the blues rock label or the fusion records we do or the guitar albums. I think every year our roster gets better and better, and that, I see, as a way of continued growth." Although van Zijl believes the USA is a more challenging market for musicians, he agrees the market in The Netherlands needs work as well. He's not a fan of digital downloads and much prefers holding a CD or LP in his hands. His goals for Mascot are twofold - "to keep the company rockin' and sign great artists". And, indeed, these goals are parlayed in the label's motto "In Rock We Trust". Van Zijl also takes a certain pleasure in that he has no unfilled wishes in the music business (yet) and he is passionate about attending concerts and festivals, as well as meeting people in the music industry whether they are music biz professionals, the media or the artists. "When in the office, it's less obvious that I'm working with music, but at concerts, it's very clear."
Be original and learn the art of writing great songs. Mix that with good musicians and a strong vocalist and it could be the golden formula. Although the current industry and media are more focused on artists that are made up in marketing meetings, quality will always survive. :->