Dave Heckman was the creator and owner of the Philadelphia label Metropolis Records and Digital Underground.
On Friday night, one of Philadelphia’s paragons of independent music and an avatar of the darkwave/electronic scene passed away: Dave Heckman. As the creator-owner of the Metropolis Records label since 1993, Heckman’s Philly-based label looked to fellow independent, innovative, electro-based/industrial music-makers throughout Europe, and maintained a literal and figurative “digital underground” release and distribution network with the likes of Skinny Puppy, KMFDM, Front Line Assembly and Mindless Self Indulgence as his charges.
The Metropolis label empire was built upon the roots of Digital Underground, a brick-and-mortar record store and lifestyle salon that operated as a home-away-from-home for many darkwave and industrial music devotees, near and far to its Fourth Street-Off-South address.
“Before digital downloads and streaming, Dave was getting hip to European acts and giving them access to the US market, both through licensing deals with his label and by carrying imports in his shop,” wrote Patrick Rodgers. Rodgers, the man behind Dancing Ferret Concerts and the initial operator of the Digital Underground shop on 4th Street has long been a contemporary and friend to Heckman, and, like Dave, an avatar of all that industrial/darkwave music has meant in America.
“Dave built so many careers and always gave his bands a fair deal,” Rodgers continued. “I know Metropolis Records will continue, but Dave was a dear friend to me as he was to many others, and I already miss him terribly.”
The label statement that I received on Saturday is a tender, emotional document…
Metropolis Records is devastated to announce the death of our founder and label owner, Dave Heckman. Dave passed unexpectedly on Friday, July 29th. Dave is survived by his wife Gail, and their two children, Colin and Nina.
Dave also leaves behind an indelible mark on the world of underground music. Dave was a Penn State graduate with an MBA from Temple University, and had extensive experience in retail distribution, but more so, Dave loved music. In 1991 he and Gail opened Digital Underground, a music store off of South Street here in Philadelphia. The store soon found a niche importing hard to find industrial CDs from Germany. This success inspired him to start Metropolis Records, and in 1993 he started the process of building a roster and partnerships with bands and labels overseas. Through the labels early, rapid growth, through the turbulence of the industry shifting towards digital, and so much more, Dave kept us going. His vision for the future of the company never wavered.
Underneath his almost larger than life personality, Dave was someone who had heart and drive to do the best he could for his artists, employees, and music in general.
Dave loved us.
To our family of artists, our partners, and our friends:
We will be reaching out to you as soon as we are able. This is all so emotionally overwhelming for us.
As always, feel free to contact Jim, Jerry, Athan, or Gary if you need anything, or have any questions. Gail is also responding to Dave’s emails, texts, and phone calls for the time being.
Rest assured that we are in more than capable hands. Gail, who built and runs her own multimillion-dollar company and has at times been a sort of silent partner in Metropolis, will keep us going strong.
Gail, Jim, Jerry, Athan, and Gary will be dedicated to continuing Dave’s legacy and keeping Metropolis going. We have wonderful distribution partnerships, and we plan to build on our other artist support network.
We need a breath. We need to grieve. We are heartbroken.
On a personal note, Dave was so much more than Metropolis. He was a mentor, a friend, a confidant, a father figure. We will miss him immeasurably.
Thank you, Dave. for everything.
We love you.