It was basically inevitable, wasn’t it? With the accelerated crossbreeding of black metal with every possible genre and subgenre (blackgrass metal!), it was only a matter of time before someone figured out that blast beats and hardstyle beats weren’t really that far off from each other. Obviously there have been a lot of black metal/industrial hybrids, but it’s rare that an electronica artist puts corpse paint on their glow sticks. Phuture Doom are definitely more on the IDM side of things than the metal side. Their look, attitude, and general willingness to embrace the blackened arts definitely make them relevant to more adventurous metalheads, though – “Phuneral Phuture”‘s Darkthrone/dubstep mashup should be of special interest to our readers. And hey, electronica is great, black metal is great, and anything that can introduce fans of one to the other should be celebrated. With that said, check out this full album stream of their self-titled debut full-length with an open mind and dance-ready feet.
By: Adrien Begrand Posted in: featured On: Tuesday, November 5th, 2013
One of the first prominent death metal bands to emerge From Finland, Convulse left lasting impressions with their first two albums, 1991’s World Without God and 1994’s Reflections. However, the band was unable to sustain that momentum, ultimately splitting up not long after the release of Reflections. In keeping with the recent trend of 1990s death metal bands returning for another kick at the can, Convulse ended their 18-year dormancy in 2012. Boasting a revamped lineup (guitarist/vocalist Rami Jämsä and bassist Juha Telenius are joined by guitarist Kristian Kangasniemi and drummer Rolle Markos) the band has returned with their long overdue third album Evil Prevails, a solid slab of straightforward, first-wave death metal that’s sure to whet the appetite of anyone who’s been starved for new Scandinavian death metal of the vintage variety.
We’re more than happy to premiere Convulse’s Evil Prevails, so by all means give it a listen below. The album is out now on Svart Records.
Three years after a momentum-murdering robbery, Philadelphia purveyors of sublime sonic wizardry and nightmarish soundscapes Cleric are back, hitting the road for a long-delayed tour in support of the brilliant 2010 album Regressions. (Stream it here.)
But wait! There’s more! This morning Decibel is honored to premiere a brand new (and aptly titled) Cleric track, “Resumption,” as well as a trailer for the tour now underway. Help us welcome these unsung trailblazers back.
By: jonathan.horsley Posted in: featured, interviews On: Monday, November 4th, 2013
Lycus’ debut was one of the best doom albums to leak long-form misery over 2013. A disconsolate epic, Tempest is an album that was thrown up around the desolate heart of a funeral doom sound so dense that it has its own bleak gravity hauling influences from black and death metal, drone and krautrock into its orbit. Never mind doom, Tempest was one of the best metal records of the year; certainly, it’s one of the most interesting. And difficult, too. It seems fitting, then, that Tempest took such a long time coming.
Lycus date back to 2008 yet was only in the past few years since relocating from Sacramento to Oakland that the quartet’s sound started to come together, their line-up settled. A few months ago we caught up with guitarist/vocalist Jackson Heath and talked Tempest and Lycus’ story so far for our September issue; for fear of anyone sleeping on an awesome band, here is the interview for those of you who might have missed it, unabridged for those who didn’t.
How did Lycus get together?
Jackson Heath: “Me and the other founding member, Trevor [Deschryver], went to high school together, and we formed the band in 2008 in the greater Sacramento area. Obviously there was not a lot of doom over there at all; we just knew we couldn’t contain a lineup after about a year.”
Where did you get the name?
JH: “My honest answer is that we looked it up! It’s from Greek mythology. It’s the son of Poseidon. But we really just liked the ring to it; it’s a simple name. It rolls off the tongue. It’s easy to say and we went with it as soon as we saw it.”
You took a break, moved to Oakland. Did your sound change much over that period of downtime?
JH: “I think the time definitely benefited us, because I think the demo reflects a lot more maturity; for the most part it’s a similar sound, but for the individual parts, the songwriting is better.”
And on the evidence of Tempest, your songwriting is getting more eclectic. . .
JH: “We strive for a more varied sound because all of our influences are all over the place and don’t just encompass metal. For this album, there’s definitely a lot more of the blackened element. We consider it less melodic than the demo; it’s still melodic but in a darker way . . . I guess gothic. We all listen to doom, but we all listen to other genres, pretty much every subgenre of metal. Our other guitarist [Dylan Burton] is really into death metal—that’s pretty much all he listens to. Personally, I am all over the place, so is Trevor. We just draw from all of these influences and combine them into something that we would want to listen to. We don’t wanna play straight doom. That would get boring. I am, personally, into progressive rock in general, weird time signatures, and there are a couple of parts on the album where you could almost say that there was a krautrock, or prog influence, particularly on the song “Coma Burn”. Towards the end, there’s a part where the guitar is just kinda droning out and doing a weird melody and the drums and bass are doing a really weird time signature. We have a little bit of that.”
For a band that “likes” Taco Bell (and White Castle), we’re pretty sure the dudes in Weekend Nachos have had their fair share of Nacho Bell Grandes. With a name such as Weekend Nachos, well, why wouldn’t they? Remember when Taco Bell used to put black olives and scallions on those things? Anyway, it’s not like the band is called Sunday Burritos or Weekday Churros. That nonsense being said, the Chicagoans have a new album coming up. It’s called Still, and if we weren’t so kind to partner with Relapse (again, we know!) for the premiere, you’d probably think the group’s up ‘n’ comer would sound like… nothing. Stillness. Wouldn’t that be a concept to wrap heads around?
True to form, Weekend Nachos deliver. Described by Relapse as “Absolutely crucial negative, hateful hardcore for fans of Infest and Nails,” well, we pretty much concur. One spin through Still and we’re still trying to get the hurt out of our ears and the smiles off our dumb-ass faces. Like punishment for power violence gluttons, to be frank. So, here you go. As Susanna Hoffs once sang to the delight of teen boys the world over: “It’s just another violent Monday / I wish it were fucking Sunday / ‘Cause that’s my cunt day.”
** Weekend Nacho’s new album, Still, is out November 11th, 2013 on Relapse Records. It’s available for pre-order HERE. If you don’t click the pre-order link, well, forever stale nachos for you!
By: andrew Posted in: a fucking parrot previewing new releases, featured On: Friday, November 1st, 2013
Well, as the year comes closer to ending, the releases are slowing down. Maybe not so much right now, but soon enough, so don’t be surprised if your old boy Waldo starts “pecking”a bunch of stuff he doesn’t really like . So, here’s all of the hate that’s fit to beak.
Ten years of TOXIC HOLOCAUST. Say it ain’t so. Well, the toxic one, Joel Grind, has released Chemistry of Consciousness on Relapse, and your fine feathered friend is willing to say that it’s the most well-rounded TH album to date. That’s not to say that it’s a departure; far from it actually. This is a nasty piece of thrash, and thrash it is. Not breaking any new boundaries, this does come across as having a little more breadth than previous releases, mostly by referencing earlier anarcho-punk and the first wave of U.K. hardcore. This is a downright nasty slab, and to call it just plain thrash doesn’t give this enough credit, so credit where credit is due. Grind’s vocals are filled with distorted razor-shredding vitriol, and the production is forceful and clear without sacrificing any intensity. There are some “slower” jams, which aren’t slow at all; they just stand to make the absolute shredders all the more shredding. The LP comes with a blotter sheet too. Peck this thing up. 8 Fucking Pecks
CONVULSE release Evil Prevails on Svart, and this is a record that fans will both love and hate, not just in general, mostly at the same time. Convulse started off releasing the classic death metal record World Without God, and, well, this isn’t it. This isn’t a bad release, but it definitely shows the band’s age, and is a passable death metal record. There are some riffs and moods that are reminiscent of bands like Grave, and then some that remind the listener more of avant jazz, or rock passages, just more watered down. I hate to give a review that has the vibe of “you like this if you like it, and won’t like it if you don’t”; however, that’s really where I stand on this. I WANT to like it more than I do; I just think it’s pretty beaking boring and kind of goes nowhere. So, uh, yeah I guess I don’t like it. 4 Fucking Pecks
The Bitch Is Back by LITA FORD is an utterly worthless cover record of Elton John’s record of the same name. (No, it’s not, but I haven’t listened and neither should you). 1 Fucking Peck
Need some gothic doom rarities? Well, you’ll never guess what PARADISE LOST have in store for you. This is one of those things that’s usually a stopgap between records to try to remind fans that the band still exists, so Tragic Illusions 25 is more than likely that. This is a collection of tracks that have been released, but are difficult to find. Spanning their career, there is at least ONE new track on this. I dunno, I typically don’t get too excited about things like this, and this is not the exception. I find this bland and unappealing, but I’ve never been a huge fan of the band, so I’m not going to hate on it. But I WILL say this is for fans, hardcore fans only. Gothic doom rarities… sure… 5 Fucking Pecks.
By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, interviews On: Friday, November 1st, 2013
** Today, November 1st, 2013, is an auspicious day. Decibel’s 100th Issue Show: The Movie DVD is out today, exclusively through Decibel’s kick-ass webstore (click HERE). To celebrate we’ve nailed down Handshake, Inc. proprietor David Hall. Who is Mr. Hall? He and crew were responsible for lensing the entire 100th Issue Show. So, let’s get down to brass tacks and Academy Award-style editing.
How’d you end up with the unenviable task of filming the Decibel 100th Issue show?
David Hall: [Laughs] Albert Mudrian wrote me an email and asked if I’d like to do it, and I was totally honored and stoked. This was one of the first projects someone actually asked me to do, as opposed to something I was producing myself to release myself. He probably wanted Sam Dunn but a) couldn’t afford him and b) was too shy to ask.
Is there anything you did differently—operationally, creatively, or otherwise—with Decibel 100th Issue show from previous festivals?
David Hall: A couple things. The first being, I absolutely insisted on us getting someone or a company to multi-track record the bands. Recording good live audio has become an obsession for me because it really makes or breaks a live concert film/DVD and it sucks to put all the effort into filming and editing something only to have the sound come out like garbage, plus it sets you apart from the Youtube videos. Luckily, Dan from Brutal Truth and Total Fucking Destruction put me in touch with Chris Post of The Post Productions. He has a killer multi-track audio recording rig and captured the event perfectly. I’ve been using him on projects ever since http://www.thepostproductions.com/ Another difference, and this was not intentional, but ended up being a plus, was that we did not have a barrier or ‘photo pit’ set up at the concert. This was something both Albert and I battled with the venue over leading up to the shoot—they didn’t want it, we did (Albert was following my lead.) The night of the show, as people started filing in to the venue I saw no barrier was set up. I freaked out a bit, because I didn’t know where the hell the shooters would film from, but they ended up working it out and the result is some of the most insane mosh action I’ve seen caught on film. There are literally people jumping—cannonballing—from the stage into the mosh, so good on the folks at Union Transfer for making me see the errors of my shameful, Canadian ways.
What kind of equipment did you use? Curious if it was a mix of high, middle and low quality gear to give you a few different sources to pull from.
David Hall: We used mid and high quality gear—since MDF 10 I have been fortunate enough to work with filmmaker/camera-operator Aaron Shirely. He has a RED camera, which is über-high quality. The rest of the crew had a variety of Digital SLR cameras. The source footage is amazingly high quality. I burnt a Blu-ray of the film for screening at the Housecore Horror fest and it looked super awesome plus good. We did, however, end up using some Youtube, and “prosumer” camcorder footage because for some reason, the shooters (and I’m only pointing this out to bust their chops and stressed me the fuck out) decided to NOT film Albert’s introduction of Repulsion. I mean, he’s the editor in chief, you know—anyway, our savior came in the form of Matt Olivo’s (of Repulsion) Daughter. She filmed the set including Albert’s intro with Matt’s HD camcorder.
Outline some of the challenges videographers face when filming an event like the Decibel 100th Issue show.
David Hall: The biggest challenge, as I see it, is not getting bored with shooting stable, straightforward footage that covers an entire set. It’s easy when filming to wanna zoom and do lots of creative moves and play with exposure, when really, as a shooter of a multi-cam event, you kind of need to just keep it simple. That’s my biggest challenge, personally, which is why I don’t shoot stuff myself that often. Other challenges include filming/capturing an environment you’re not in control of: lighting, a frontman that moves around a lot, security or fans standing in front of your lens, battery life, enough room on your memory cards— remembering to hit ‘record’… There’s a lot going on a gig, especially if you are a fan of the band, and you have to keep a mental check-list going.
What’s more fun? Filming bands performing, interviewing people, or watching the crowd react when cameras turn to them?
David Hall: I guess it depends on the gig. If there’s a band playing that you really love, it can be totally fun and rewarding to be on stage or in the photo pit, inches away, capturing all the action of a band you know all the songs of…it feels special. Same with interviewing…again, it depends on the subject, it’s rewarding to interview someone you respect and get awesome quotes out of them, it’s tough when you get someone who doesn’t really wanna talk, but you learn how to deal with that and get some good stuff. Filming a crowd is pretty voyeuristic and can get awkward at times, but I’ve learned the more I do this that bands and labels love seeing crowd shots, so I increasingly ask my shooters to get that kind of stuff.
Was there a highlight moment for you during or after filming?
David Hall: Professionally: I think the biggest highlight was that we—the crew—pulled it off; we filmed and recorded the show and did interviews and got everything we needed to make a cool film. Like I said before, this was one of my first paid gigs, so being able to get shit done just overall felt great. It was also awesome to work with a crew and be able to pay them and, and know we were creating something together that would be seen by people and enjoyed. I’m a fan of the magazine so it was cool to meet so many of the people responsible and interview them. Personally: hanging out with Scott Hull and Dave Witte in a room backstage sampling all these insane craft beers Witte had brought for the event, and hanging out with Richard Johnson and Rich Hoak who are two of my favorite people in the world.
Explain how you pieced the footage together. Editing film is unfun, from my point of view.
David Hall: Editing can be unfun if you’re unorganized, but having edited three Marlyand Deathfest films—literally 100s of hours of footage—I’ve come to get my system and style down fairly pat. A couple years ago I got a killer new computer and started using new editing software that allows one to use seamless “multi-camera editing” which is basically like watching the event you’ve filmed through all angles of the cameras that filmed them. You know when you see on TV some director at a control booth, saying “gimme number one, gimme number two’—that’s live editing for broadcast, and that’s how I edit now, except you line up all your footage and the computer plays it back in sync, etc. I mean, it’s never that exactly perfect, but pretty darn close and when you can marry technology with your creative impulses, it’s a good feeling. Nerd shit makes me happy sometimes.
Did Albert give you much direction on assembly or organization of the source material?
David Hall: Albert had a big hand in refining things and getting the final structure and plotting of the film in place. Basically, I would edit the band footage together, upload it and he would pick songs and give me notes. With the interviews, I uploaded the raw footage and he picked out the clips he wanted. When all that was done, he gave me a final outline and I worked from there. It was a great experience working back and forth like that – I learned a lot.
The DVD is a limited release. What do think fans of the bands and magazine will walk away with after viewing it?
David Hall: I think fans of the bands will dig the intimate access we had in terms of filming the bands, and feel the overall celebratory vibe of the sets. All the bands were happy with their performances, and the crowd is totally into so it’s a lot of fun to check out the songs. Fans of the magazine will dig the chance to hear/see some of the contributors talk about the magazine, the process of writing it and how they got started, and getting some insight into how the magazine got its start and what goes into it. Overall the DVD is a great representation of the night, which was a big party.
Would you do it again? Our 200th issue is coming up soonish, you know.
David Hall: Hell yeah, I’d do it in a heartbeat. I love Philly now, met a lot of people I know consider friends, and I love the magazine, love the venue, love all of it. I hope they invite me back!
By: adem Posted in: featured, liver failure On: Friday, November 1st, 2013
With Halloween now behind us, we can leave behind the pumpkin beers—is it me, or were there like a thousand of these things this year?—and move on to the big winter warmers. This is a time of year when the darker, heartier and higher ABV beers start to show up. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago when this was pretty much the only time of year to get big beers. Now you can get barley wines and Russian imperial stouts year round, for chrissakes. Sure, we personally indulge in these kinds of brews pretty much any time of the year, but drinking a barley wine on a hot summer day just feels wrong. And yet we still do it.
Now that it’s getting colder, there’s less daylight and we’re not drinking beer for refreshment and thirst-quenching as much, settling in with a glass of something around 10% ABV doesn’t sound too bad. Speaking of such beasts, Surly just released its vaunted Darkness Russian imperial stout at “Darkness Day” last week. Unfortunately, it’s probably nearly impossible to find this brew outside of Minneapolis, but you can always try to swing a trade for one through beeradvocate.
But there are plenty of regular holiday releases that get wider distribution. Some of these are of the come-in-a-six-pack variety, like one of our favorites, Deschutes Jubelale (6.7% ABV), while others are special occasion purchases, like Anchor’s Christmas Ale, which features a completely different recipe (and different tree on the label) every year. If you want to go really big, there’s Samichlaus, a super-strong lager—14% ABV!—released once a year. It’s no easy task getting a lager to 14%, and this brewed once a year, because it takes the better part of the year to do it.
And, hey, if you want a beer to pair with your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, our pal Jeff “Oly” Olson—former Trouble drummer, current The Skull drummer and Allagash Brewing employee—has recently brewed a Russian imperial stout with cranberries. Called Red Howes, it’ll be released by Allagash in time for your holiday meals. Another fine brew that’s sort of like Thanksgiving in a glass is The Bruery’s Autumn Maple (8% ABV). It’s filled with yam, spices and maple syrup and fermented with a Belgian yeast to give it that extra bit of character. It’s about as close to a pumpkin beer as we like to get.
The Belgians are also crazy about brewing all manor of special, high-gravity holiday beers. This is knockout-punch stuff, many with double-digit ABV, like Brasserie Dubuisson’s Scaldis de Noel (13% ABV). This is the kind of winter brew you turn to regularly if you want to have no recollection of November and December.
It’s probably no coincidence that the holidays used to be the time of year when the big guns came out. The family gatherings, crowded shopping malls and nonstop barrage of holiday shmaltz is when we need it the most.
By: Dan Lake Posted in: featured, interviews, listen On: Friday, November 1st, 2013
Oh, the power of an ‘e’. In 2011, a not-really-black metal band was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba and called itself Noir. Earlier this year, the band completely changed the pronunciation of their name by bringing the ‘e’ and becoming Noire. Last month, Deathbound Records released the band’s debut full-length Dark Reverence, and we’re giving you a taste of it today. We also had the opportunity to ask the band a few questions and investigate the mystery of the ‘e’. Enjoy the savage/pretty title track from Noire’s new record as you start making preparations for… next Halloween. (Hello, Richard Christy!)
How did the Noire project get started?
Noire got started sometime in 2011 when our first drummer and [guitarist] Bob [Fitzgerald] were looking to start a metal project. We jammed with many different people and it wasn’t until we (Bob and Andrew [Lawes, guitars/vox]) were introduced that Noire truly began!
Once we wrote the first Noire song (“A Fire Shall Burn”), it was clear that we shared the same musical philosophy and it was time to start writing the album Dark Reverence. About half way through writing it, Craig [Peeples, bass] approached us after learning that we needed a bass player. He had seen us play without bass and knew obviously this was not by choice. Shortly after that we had to replace our drummer and after auditioning a few people we managed to grab Derrick’s attention. Derrick [Kroll] was a perfect fit for Noire. We finally had a full band with its members all dedicated to the same goal. Noire has a very specific musical vision and has had to make sacrifices to remain true to it.
How does songwriting happen? What processes, inspiration and work led to this new set of songs?
Our song writing process simply starts with us (Bob and Andrew) sharing riff ideas and together we lay the groundwork for the song. We tend to approach songwriting from a compositional standpoint while trying to create an overall classical feel with the melodies and harmonies and at the same time try to stay true to our metal influences. We set out to write a dynamic song that tells a story and that will evoke varied emotions. We want to explore a new musical path each time we write new material and feel we are on a road less traveled in the metal world.
Your press kit says you seek to “extoll the beauty of the lightless side of music.” Can you talk specifically about what draws you to this mission and what makes you feel satisfied in your achievements on this album?
Collectively as a band we do have a deep respect for the concept of darkness and the relationship it has with light. We want to portray this in our music. In general we find this subject to be quite intriguing and beautiful. Darkness is patient, eternal and constant and eventually all light, all energy must succumb to it. We feel that this can be used metaphorically to view many things in life. This was our main inspiration for Dark Reverence and we are satisfied with the material on this album however we are confident we can explore this subject further.
What were the recording sessions like for Dark Reverence?
Our recording sessions for Dark Reverence were quite interesting. First off, for some of us it was our studio experience, so there was a little bit of a learning curve and because Derrick joined the band only a few months before recording, he had a lot of catching up to do. He had to learn and write some of his parts in the studio. For example, “Faithless” was not finished until after we began the recording process. Any obstacles we faced were overcome with the positive and relaxed atmosphere at Grimfrykt Studios. Overall we learned a lot and we will take that knowledge to try and create something better next time.
You mentioned you opened for Absu. What has Noire’s live experience been like?
Noire’s live experience has been very fulfilling so far. Having completed a western tour and played several local shows, we have realized that many people identify with us. We are very serious on stage and without the use of props or stage banter we set a dark, brooding atmosphere where the songs alone captivate the audience. We feel we have a strong, quiet connection with the crowd, more so than our previous projects. The music can be quite emotional and we have seen it affect people live.
What bands/musicians would you really be interested in playing shows with?
As far as bands we’d like to play with. We would love to share the stage with any one of our main European influences and hopefully some of our new label mates. Enslaved or Catuvolcus maybe. Also there are still some local bands we have yet to perform with.
Any current thoughts on Noire’s direction for the foreseeable future?
Noire’s direction for the future involves working with our label, Deathbound Records, to promote Dark Reverence and to take it out east. Hopefully play some shows in Montreal. Also we have already started to write new material for our second album. We will continue to extoll the beauty of the lightless side of music.
Holy Shit! One Dude (Basically) Books this Whole Thing! An Interview with FunFunFunFest’s Graham Williams
By: kevin.stewart-panko Posted in: featured, interviews, uncategorized On: Thursday, October 31st, 2013
The 8th FunFunFunFest kicks off next week in Austin and though it may not strictly be an extreme music fest along the lines of the usual multi-day extravaganzas featured in this space, it is one of the largest fests I’ll have the opportunity to write about and still offers a shit-ton of metal and hardcore alongside the indie rock, electronic/dancey/DJ stuff and hip-hop. As well, wander around the site at the massive Auditorium Shores and you’ll stumble across pro skaters and BMX-ers, wrestling, enough food trucks to give Eat St. three seasons of content, hot dog eating contests, an air-cannon that fires tacos into the hungry crowd and stand-up comedy, this year featuring sets from Doug Benson, Kyle Kinane and the almighty Patton Fucking Oswalt! That says nothing of “Black Stage” appearances by Slayer, Flag, Judge, Gojira, Melt-Banana, Quicksand, the Locust, Narrows, Retox, Code Orange Kids and so on. And then there are the “Nights” shows in which more and more bands take over the venues of downtown Austin until the wee hours.
Last year was the first year I made the trek down for FFFF and to say it’s an overwhelming experience – the heat and the dust didn’t help, although who the fuck am I to balk at 90 degree temperatures in November? – is to suck back an understatement with a “No shit, Sherlock” chaser. I figured I’d try and get in touch with one of the people responsible for putting this whole thing together, specifically whoever is responsible for organising the Deci-baller friendly “Black Stage.” What I discovered is that basically one dude, Graham Williams, essentially puts this whole thing together! Don’t ask me where he found the time to speak to the Deciblog for 45 minutes a few weeks ago, but he did and here are the highlights.
I’m going to assume there’s not just one person booking the whole thing. So, where in the organisation are you and what’s your title?
Umm, I actually do book the whole thing.
Oh, really? Ok.
I’m also one of the owners of the festival and we also have a company called Transmission Events that does shows all year around and FFFF is our big end of year thing. We book a bunch of clubs in Austin like Red 7 and Mohawk and we do a lot of stuff at ACL Live. We book all year around and I’ve done that most of my adult life. I ran Emo’s for about a decade through the late 90s and early 2000’s. I left in 2006-07 and started Transmission and I had just started FunFunFunFest around that time.
So, the company and the fest run in conjunction with one another?
Basically. The fest was around about a year longer. I started the fest then a year later we started the company and booking a bunch of different venues. This will be the fest’s 8th year.
What was the original goal for FFFF? What started the whole thing?
Honestly, it started by accident. Like I said, I booked and managed Emo’s at the time. I had a weekend where I was booked up with a bunch of different shows and I had a bunch of bands coming through. I remember specifically I had Bouncing Souls one night, Cannibal Corpse the next and a big mix of punk, indie rock and hip hop and DJs all happened to be coming through Austin at the same time. I hit up a few of the clubs to see if anyone was available and no one was or could do the shows. It just seemed silly that Austin, supposedly the music capital of the world, had all these great bands and no one could get a show in town on December 1st. I had done a series of outdoor events with a local movie theater and we had done a thing earlier in the summer at this place called Waterloo Park down the street from Emo’s, so we decided to just put together a show for all these bands that needed to play. More and more bands got added, more and more bands happened to be routing through Austin that weekend and needed to hop on something that weekend, I’m not sure why, happenstance I guess. Long story short, we ended up making this festival out of necessity for all these bands needing a place to play. The first year was small and really cool and everyone loved it and we decided to keep doing it and it’s grown every year since into something bigger. The first year was just two mainstages and even those were pretty small; one was a bit more indie rock, the other was a bit more punk and hardcore stuff. There was only a little bit of metal that year. And then we had a small little tent with some DJs in it for the dance-y stuff. It was pretty small; maybe 3000 people. The first fest was one day and it was very cold on December 1st as a cold front blew in that day. For the next year, we moved it back a month, expanded the whole concept and what we were doing and it’s where we’re at now.
At what point did you start including the comedians, skateboarding, wrestling and all the “cultural” stuff?
After we added a day and moved it back a month, I wanna say it was the third year we added a fourth stage that was a mix of comedy and singer-songwriter stuff, anything that didn’t work on the big stage. It would have been weird to have an acoustic act between two rock bands or hip-hop or something. We were also starting to do more comedy stuff year-round at some of our venues and there were a lot of cool comics we wanted to have, but we thought it would be weird for a comic to get on stage while someone is sound checking drums behind them. So, we decided to make a smaller side stage for fun, cool stuff that wasn’t typical music stuff like wrestlers, hot dog eating contests and shooting tacos out of a cannon. Just stuff we thought was fun and funny and we thought added to experience. We started doing more skate and BMX stuff the year after that. It started pretty small with a local guy who owned a ramp. He had a skate shop and wanted to set up for some of his riders and then it got bigger and now there’s this crazy ramp and all these pros who fly out for it every year and ESPN covers it and stuff. Another guy handles that part of it actually. I don’t do any of the skate stuff just because it’s so massive and I don’t really know that scene very well. In only know the old people like Steve Caballero, Tony Hawk, the Bones Brigade… there’s a non-profit group called Project Loop that’s based in Taylor that’s just outside of Austin and they help organise everything there and they do a good job.
I’m trying to imagine one person booking all that music and comedy. I can see if it was that much work but focussed on one genre of music, but the fest covers a pretty broad spectrum.
I’m just into a lot of different stuff. I came more from the punk, hardcore and metal scenes. I grew up in those scenes, so I guess that’s where the vibe of the fest comes from and I guess that’s sort of at the heart of everything and the way we present ourselves and market it.
At the same time, to keep abreast of all that stuff I’m assuming you have some kind of knowledge of the indie and hip hop scenes because you’re not just putting on name bands, there are up-and-comers and pretty unknown bands playing.
There’s a little of that. There are definitely agents I work with year-round who might have an act I’ll take a chance on because I trust them, but for the most part 80-90% of it is me. I think even though I grew up in metal, punk and hardcore, that got me interested in a lot of different music and in working at Emo’s for so long, I dealt with a lot of different genres. I guess I always believed, and still do, that underground music has like this big umbrella that encompasses all of it. It’s interesting how many bands share members from bands that are completely different musically who’re on this label which is the same as these bands they tour with. I like that idea. When I go to a show, I might be at a punk show, but I’ll see so-and-so from Spoon or so-and-so from Black Angels. It’s not like everyone’s tied into their little scene and they never leave. I think there’s a bit more crossover in every music scene than most people realise. I think labels and band members know that and obviously there a lot of people who are into one thing more than they are another, but the idea of the festival was always to present that and show that this is independent music and that were all sort of in the same scene. Everything may be separated by stages because a lot of people are going to stay at the one stage for a good chunk of time to see what they’re into, but it’s always pleasantly surprising or affirming to see two guys in Slayer shirts who are so excited to see Slayer also being excited to see Del the Funky Homosapien or De La Soul. And how often do you get to go to a show where you get to see those artists in the same setting? There are a lot of people who go to FFFF who are into everything, but I think most people are into two out of three or four stages. I always liked the concept that progressive music is progressive no matter what genre it comes from and that what FFFF has always sort of been about. It’s not so much about throwing a bunch of sets together that don’t match; instead it’s matching everything up by stage and putting it together so that everyone can be a part of it and check it out.
This sounds like something you work on all year.
Pretty much. Like I said, we book shows all year so there are times when I start focussing on it a lot more starting during the spring up until late summer. That’s kind of the busiest where I’m working on putting all the final pieces together. We start looking at some of bigger names a year out and those who are planning tours way in advance. After the new year is when we start focussing because that’s when people start planning tours and whether they can do the festival.
Logistically, what’s the biggest nightmare for a fest this size?
Well, the actual nightmare I have three or four times a year leading up to it is that no one’s there. I’ve always had this reoccurring nightmare that we’re at the fest and we’re pushing back the doors waiting for people to show up and we’re telling Fugazi, who’ve reunited for this one show, “Sorry there’s no one here, I promise they’ll show up!” That’s the nightmare, hoping that people show up, but there are layers of that – hoping it doesn’t rain. We had a rain year that sucked and it washed out a day. We didn’t have to cancel, but it was nasty. That kind of stuff. But as for how the festival runs, it’s pretty smooth. I mean we’ve gotten better at it. Every year we’ve learned more and more and made our small mistakes that we’ve been able to fix. Our production team and our marketing team does such an amazing job getting the word out, branding the festival, doing amazing art and keeping the stages moving smoothly on-site. It takes a lot of planning, but we have a pretty good sized team that works around the festival all fall and during that weekend; we’ve gotten it down pretty nicely, I think.
I noticed that there seem to be fewer bands playing the black stage. Is the set up going to be different than last year?
We did like three bands less a day because instead of doing the double stage, we’re doing one big stage with bigger sound and bigger production. I always liked the two stage model because the bands could bound back and forth and there was very little set change and it lessened the gap of time between music so fans didn’t have to wait to long for something else to start. But at the same time, production-wise there were some complaints about there not being enough time between sets and that it could throw of the whole show. So I think production-wise, it’ll be smoother for bands to have a good amount of time between sets to make sure everything is set up correctly and the way they want it. Plus, we could go a little bit bigger if we struck it from two stages to one and that was the idea.
Last year it was Run DMC’s reunion for the show. This year you’ve got Judge playing. How much do you have to do with these bands getting back together to do these one-offs?
It depends. It’s probably in thirds. A third of the time someone hits us specifically because they thing FFFF is a cool option. A third of the time it’s us reaching out to a band, manager or agent and really just pushing to make it happen. Like this year, Television was a long shot. I saw that they were doing something in Australia and was shocked. We got in touch with Tom Verlaine, hit him up, he hit us back and said he was down. We got lucky there, just from being persistent. But the other third is because reunions are popular these days, so agents, managers and bands kind of plan it out. They’ll look at Coachella all the way to FFFF or whatever they use as their beginning or end for festivals. It’s up to us to be on top of things and make sure we’re part of that reunion. It sort of depends on the situation, but I think we take pride in trying to reunite bands and bring some classic stuff back to life because that’s what we grew up on but we definitely don’t want it to be like ‘old man fest’ where everything is nostalgic. I know if I was going to a show in the 90s or whenever and all the bands that were playing were older acts, I wouldn’t be nearly as excited as if it was all the bands I was listening to and just recently bought records of. I recognise that there are tons of kids who are listening to something different than what I’m listening to regularly and we want those acts to be on the fest and be represented just as much, if not more, than the classic acts. But we don’t want the fest to be just about kids; it’s got to be something that’s all about progressive music from modern stuff to the things that kickstarted the movement so many years ago.
After you made the early announcements about Slayer and Flag playing, does stuff like Jeff Hanneman passing away and the continuing legal whatever going on in the Black Flag camp make your heart jump into your throat and be like, “Oh no!”
It has in the past. In those two cases, Jeff had actually just died when we booked them and that was just coincidence. They played a couple years ago and Jeff had been sick for a while. When they played before, he wasn’t with them either. They happened to be planning a tour that happened to be coming through Austin the same weekend and their agent was looking for a venue. We were like, “Well, you could play a venue, but you’re going to be going against a festival that they’ve played. Why don’t we add them to the fest?” and we kinda rearranged things to add them because it seemed silly for them to be playing down the street for $40 when we have a big stage and they had a really good time playing last time. Jeff was already out of the picture, sadly, when they were planning that tour. And the Flag/Black Flag drama has been going on since before Black Flag even got back together. It’s a long thing that, considering and knowing the back story, would happen no matter what. If anything, it’s just silly, in my opinion. But that said, I figured it’d be really fun; I’ve gotten to see it and it’s incredible and it’s literally some of the best members of Black Flag, minus Greg Ginn of course, together on stage just playing those songs the way you want to hear them. It’s an incredible show and people go nuts. I’ve already seen it two or three times this year. But none of that stuff freaked me out or stood out too much. Of course, it’s horrible that Jeff died or when anything like that happens, but I don’t think it affects us too much. There have been times when things like that have happened; an artist puts out a terrible album that went in some crazy direction and is doing some out-there stuff live that people aren’t into after I’ve already confirmed them. Then, it’s just, “Well, hopefully people won’t hate it.” We have had bands cancel last minute because of health problems or whatever. Devo cancelled a week before they were supposed to play one year when their guitarist had surgery and was out of commission for a few months. Luckily we were able to get a replacement, but that was a pretty scary moment; that’s more the stuff I’m worried about happening than just drama because that’s something I can’t control.
Over the course of the weekend, do you get to see any sets or are you too busy running around?
I watch a good amount. I used to do a lot more. There used to be four of us running the festival at one point, doing everything from buying ice to running stages and it was a mess because it was such a small group of us and the fest was growing faster than we were. At this point, we have enough people. That said, there are still things I miss because I’m meeting up with folks or just because it’s a festival that’s pretty much every stage has something to my tastes and I can’t watch everything. It’s not so bad anymore, but I still get pulled in a lot of directions. Now, I make my list like everyone else and tell everyone that unless it’s an emergency I won’t be responding to texts or calls or whatever during Judge, for example.
You mentioned staff; how many staff and volunteers does it take to keep things running?
We have a good amount of volunteers, but we have a lot more paid people. Volunteers, you can only rely on so much because it’s a festival and they’re not being paid and their investment only goes so far. We have to hire a massive staff of security people from security companies; we hire a lot of people in-house. Like I said we run a lot of clubs, so we have a lot people who already understand what’s going on. It’s hard to hire from a random company and expect them to hire a bunch of people who understand why people are stage diving. We have a lot of our own people working the stages and bars. And then we have police, EMTs, staff and security that add up to probably another 100 people a day that handle everything else.
OK, here’s my usual, final go-to question: what bands are on your booker’s bucket list?
For sure, I have one. That whole staff does. We’ve got a dream list and I’ve been pretty lucky in that I’ve been able to cross a lot off my list and bring a lot of those acts back for a second time when it’s been feasible. Some of the dream list is unattainable, whether it’s some obscure band that will never reunite or someone who’s way too big for us to ever afford, but I’m always surprised at what we end up doing. I mean, the Run DMC thing still blows my mind that we pulled that off because anyone else with a lot more money and sway could’ve gotten them. Every year we kind of go through the list and update it with new acts. Sometimes it’s a giant legend like AC/DC or Iron Maiden, or sometimes it’s getting a band back together like Jawbreaker or some punk or hardcore band we listened to growing up. Aside from the unattainable and reunion bands, there are still a lot of great bands that still tour that we’d like to have and it’s just a matter of timing.