One way to make sure your festival doesn’t suck, isn’t polluted by buy-on bands and weird compromises that all but beseech the audience to head to the bar for every third act is to have Darkthrone’s Fenriz choose the line-up. Using our favorite hiking metal punk’s Band of the Week blog to draw upon, the UK’s Live Evil festival does exactly that. The brainchild of Marek Steven and Mark Lewis, Live Evil is avowedly underground, a weekender hosted in—with all respect to the Camden Underworld—a dive, upon which bands of varying stripes of metal sub-genres, of various nationalities and pedigrees, all converge.
Last year’s inaugural event saw Decibel cover stars Ghost sharing a stage with the likes of Angel Witch, Obliteration, Hooded Menace, Ramesses and Vulcano. This time out sees the UK debut of Norwegian blackened thrash titans Aura Noir, In Solitude, Antichrist, Morbus Chron and Pagan Altar.
At just £30 a ticket, it works out at less than the price of a beer per band. Taking place in Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd October, just weeks away, the Deciblog caught up with co-organiser Marek Steven to find out what we can expect.
What challenges did you face putting together the festival’s second year: was there anything you wanted to improve on or change?
Marek Steven: I think we just want to make it as amazing as last year really. The main challenge is not to lose money really. We aim to break even and having 16 or more bands from all over the world at a relatively small venue is the main struggle. But tickets are almost sold out so we’re looking good again! We pretty much do most of it ourselves and work full-time too, so it’s a bit hectic but a lot of fun. It’s massively rewarding to support the very best metal bands and this scene has an incredibly good vibe. Everyone is great fun, the atmosphere between the bands is tangible. We also have a different venues, bigger for the pre-party and after party which will be an improvement too.
Who were the big successes for you last year? You certainly got Ghost at the right time.
MS: Fenriz was the first one to pick up on Ghost and within seconds of hearing the demo we were pretty obsessed. We actually booked their debut show for Live Evil but they ended up playing another festival the day before us which was a bit of a shame I guess. Putting on the show was complicated and pretty funny. Angel Witch were the band of the weekend, with Bill Steer’s first gig on rhythm guitar too, it was too perfect. The most wild and exciting set was definitely Nekromantheon before Ghost. That was one of the most intense and high energy thrash shows I’ve seen. Totally nuts. They’re going back for the pre-show this year.
Was it easier to book bands this time round, given that last year went so well?
MS: We didn’t really have too much trouble booking bands last year either, but it’s true that the word is out that we look after bands and that the atmosphere at the fest is very special. As a result everyone we asked that was available has said yes. It’s a bit of conference for quality, real metal and I guess an honor to be involved for all of us. Many of the bands that play would be coming to see the other bands anyway, it’s a pretty tight scene.
The Curated by Fenriz factor is a beyond-cool USP. How involved is he with the festival, what sort of input does he have?
MS: It all comes from him ultimately and we do keep in touch about certain things and ideas. But we don’t tend to say it’s curated by Fenriz just because that term is a bit overused—although it’s broadly true. He finds a new band every week for his Band of the Week blog and we have a lot to choose from as a result. He simply listens to more music than anyone, and has a great knowledge and passion for rock and metal from the ’60s through to the 1989 sound. It’s a brilliant leveler as we have pretty good taste but with that bottom line we can be sure that we have no weeny bands or fakes. It also means we don’t have to worry about being hassled by loads of labels and crappy bands. It’s awesome to be able to spread the word of good metal, and it’s not his ‘celebrity’ that is appealing but his genuine credibility and open mind.
What sort of balance between genres do you want to get and what is the criteria for choosing Live Evil bands?
MS: Within the many Bands of the Week we look at the list and think about who we want to see and who would slay live. We might have to consider who we can afford sometimes, and obviously check if they are free that weekend. We definitely try and get a balance between metal, thrash, black metal, death, metal-punk and maybe a bit of old doom. It works better on the day to mix it up. When Fenriz agreed to do this in 2009 he said the two criteria are that he doesn’t have to be there and that we get a broad selection of nationalities. So we definitely try and get as many countries involved as we can.
Do you have any plans to expand the festival in the manner of like Roadburn or Maryland Deathfest, and if so, what you need to make that happen?
MS: Yeah, I think we definitely would like to build it up into something bigger next year. It’s tough to really make it work in a smallish venue so we might well be looking for somewhere else to do it next year very soon. Where to do it is the problem… we are thinking! Ideas are welcomed.
Who are you especially excited about having on this year’s bill?
MS: Would it sound disingenuous to say that literally every band equally? I’m personally completely ecstatic with the bands we have this year. I’m actually more excited overall that last year even. If you put a gun to my head I might say Aura Noir and Black Magic first of all. Antichrist is going to be completely insane. Morbus Chron are probably my favourite death metal band for 10 years, and I can’t stop listening to Bunker 66. Having Pagan Altar now means a lot to me personally too—we’re going to put on a big show with that I think.
Was there anyone that you couldn’t get that you hope to get in the future?
MS: We asked Midnight straight away but it didn’t work out. We had Pentagram (Chile) booked but one of them then had a gig with another band. Repugnant would have been cool but they couldn’t do it. Metalucifer would definitely be killer but we couldn’t really afford them this time. Manilla Road would be a suitable band too, in the future perhaps. Fenriz likes Rush so why limit ourselves!
How important is it that the underground pitches in and helps? It’s kind of old-school in that regard with people putting bands up and so forth? How can the good folk offer their services?
MS: Yeah we definitely appreciate support from people. Last year a fair few nice kids took bands in for the weekend, and we various people helping man the merch and being runners etc. They can contact us through the website if they want to be involved. There are various things that need doing, always!
Marek’s guide to the LIVE EVIL 2011 Line-up:
PAGAN ALTAR “Doomed NWOBHM legends who still sound as good as they did in ’82. They should have their full robed-up evil show from back in the day too.”
IN SOLITUDE “The very first ever band of the week. Proper heavy metal with an occult vibe and a super high energy live show. This will be their UK debut.”
JAGUAR “One of the originators of the NWOBHM sound. They were always one of the rawest bands and suit Live Evil perfectly a real party vibe live too.”
EM RUINAS “Brazilian black thrash maniax. Should be one of the stand-out crazy headbanging sets.”
RAVENS CREED “Brutal punked-up death from some legendary UK players… An unrelenting barrage! Now with a great new vocalist.”
MAIM “One of the very best in the recent old sounding death metal bands. Fantastic sound and songs. They share a member with Morbus Chron.”
WITCHGRAVE “A brilliant Swedish act that sound like Venom with a little more of the catchier side of NWOBHM thrown in. Awesome live and share members with Antichrist.”
AGE OF TAURUS “One of the best British bands for years. A doomed sound that’s not limited by slowness as true doom shouldn’t. Very heavy live too.”
AURA NOIR “In the early ‘90s they were playing thrash with a black edge when few people cared. Now they are rightly regarded as pioneers and very popular. With their best line-up and slaying venues. First ever UK show!”
ELIXIR “Late period NWOBHM with an epic edge. Elixir are great live, still, they have a real chunky feel and some classic songs.”
ANTICHRIST “One of the best live acts in the world currently. Antichrist are one of the leaders in the scandi-thrash wave and one of our genuine highlights.”
CRUEL FORCE “A very popular German black thrash band with killer songs. The young guys really know how to put a show on too.”
MORBUS CHRON “One of the best death metal bands for years. Think Nihilist (pre-Entombed) and Autopsy, super tasteful and raw riffing.
BUNKER 66 “Italian metal that defies easy categorisation. It’s simply no bullshit, heavy and addictive. Maybe they are slightly crusty thrash in the Slaughter (Canada) vein.”
BLACK MAGIC “Another highlight and a rare show from the Deathhammer guys’ other band. A little like Witchgrave in that they are a kind of raw, slightly blackened take on the early metal or NWOBHM sound.”
REVENGE “Tasty established Greece black thrash. These bastards will be yet another brutal highlight on Sunday.”