Around this time last year, we spoke to Godhunter guitarist/vocalist David Rodgers as he was in the process of putting together the second edition of Tucson, AZ’s Southwest Terrorfest (go here to read all about it). At the time, under the Deciblog’s interrogation hot lamps, Rodgers mentioned that one of the bands on his “booking bucket list” was Neurosis. Well, guess what he went and did? Rodgers managed to score the Bay Area legends at this year’s version of the fest alongside the likes of -(16)-, Pelican, Goatsnake, the Body, the Atlas Moth, Author & Punisher amongst many more all set to slowly drop the citizens of Tucson (and beyond) into a cauldron of bubbling hot tar come October 16, 17, 18 and 19. We got in touch with Rodgers as he balanced busyness and elation to talk about the bigger and better version of this year’s fest.
Tell us about how last year went. Was it a success in your eyes?
I think we did 75-80% [of our goal]. Thursday was really good, Saturday was awesome, Friday was OK, Sunday was not good. Not a lot of people showed up on Sunday and it led us to refining a few things like having fewer bands and making for a little less time for people to actually be there.
Would you say those were two of the bigger lessons you learned? How were they applied to this year?
Those were definitely the two most important items. I think we had too many bands last year and some of them just got lost in the shuffle. Some bands played too early in the day when people were still hungover when people don’t necessarily want to see a band play at 2:30 in the afternoon. I know some places like at MDF, people are out at like 11am or noon all bright-eyed and ready to go, but we’re not there. So, we trimmed that back a little and looked at what did work. It worked really well to bring in bands that don’t regularly come through town. Like Kylesa had never been to Tucson before, so a ton of people came out to see them. With Red Fang, [guitarist] Bryan [Giles] is from here, so they’ve played here a lot, but they’ve never played at a big place like The Rock before and it was the most people I’ve ever seen out for them. So, we figured we’d get really good bands that don’t come through Tucson a lot and narrowed it down to no music before 6:30pm. We’ll let people get through their day, get some dinner or whatever, then start up.
At what point did you start working on this year’s version and in light of what happened on Sunday, was there ever a point you were feeling discouraged about the whole thing?
That would have been all day Sunday and probably for a couple weeks afterwards I didn’t know if I wanted to have anything to do with it again. I’m pretty tough on myself; I’m one of those people where even if I win a race, it’ll be like “I didn’t win the race fast enough.” So, it was hard in the moment to see the successes we had because I was concentrated way too much on Sunday not turning out the way I wanted it to. There were bands that had really good crowds on Sunday, but the crowd kind of ebbed and flowed and nobody really stuck around through the whole day. It was like a bunch of kids showed up to see ACxDC and then half of them left and didn’t come back. Or people were there to see Theories, but it was only death-grind kids and that was the only band they wanted to see that day. I’d say by December, we started talking about it. I had come off of a boil a little bit and the other guys were like, “we did really well for most of it, we just kind of blew it here. So, let’s just fix that and do it again, but better.” So, by January and February we were right back into the thick of it and booking again.
Last year you told me that one of the bands on your “booking bucket list” was Neurosis and you got them for this year? What were the circumstances behind that? Was it a matter of you hammering away at them until they said yes?
No, but here’s kind of how the process went. We moved venues this year; we’re not at The Rock any more. We didn’t have a problem with them; they’re great people, it’s just that we knew that if we wanted to step up the headlining bands a little bigger we couldn’t do it there because it’s a limited venue and there’s no backstage area at all. One of the good things that happened last year was that the people who run The Rialto, which is sort of the main theater downtown where everyone loves to play, got really interested in the fest and I think they were at the Kylesa and Red Fang shows. They approached us and asked us what we thought about bringing the fest downtown. That had always been our intention from the start; to get it to where it was big enough to have it downtown so everyone could walk between venues, hotels, restaurants and bars and it doesn’t become a thing where people have to drive to and park their cars. So, once they got on board, we sat down with them and literally just made up a wish list. They had a couple bands they threw on to the list. They also wanted to get Sleep, so we pursued Sleep and High on Fire, but I think High on Fire is recording an album this month and couldn’t do it, so we kind of have them on the shelf for next year, hopefully. And then I threw out a couple names for the list, which were Goatsnake, which I thought was a more realistic chance, and Neurosis, which was our number one choice. So, as it is, I know Ron Martinez who runs Crawlspace Booking and books for Neurosis now. I’ve done shows for his bands in the past and he knows I’ve been doing this stuff for years. I talked to him and asked him to talk to the guys and see if it was something they would be interested in if the money was right. With Neurosis, it has to be something they’re interested in. You could throw a boatload of money at them, but if they’re opening for Papa Roach or some shit, they’re going to say no. They want it to be something that’s unique and something that’s sort based around them because they’ve reached that status now. So, we talked money, it went really smoothly and quickly and Neurosis was actually the very first band confirmed this year. The good part about that is that once you reach out to the rest of the bands and you say, “by the way, Neurosis is the Saturday headliner” everything really falls into place after that.
With that in mind, and I don’t know if you’ve even thought this far ahead, but does this make it that much more of a challenge for you next year?
It will be a challenge, but we’re not going to try and one-up ourselves every year though. One thing we refined was the mix that we had last year. The Sacred Reich day was all fast, thrash and death metal bands and Sunday was a lot of punk, hardcore and crust stuff. We kind of did away with doing different days and said, “let’s just have a theme and once we get a couple of headliners, we’ll see where that theme is going.” Once we got Neurosis and Goatsnake on board it was looking like it was going to be a ‘slow’ year in that none of the bands playing are blazingly fast. Next year, we’re going to do a fast year. So we already have bands lined up and I’ve talked to a couple people who are interested in it. Neurosis is definitely a legendary band, but luckily there are a lot of bands out there who have that same gravitas as Neurosis and for what it looks like we’ll be doing next year, I think people will be just as into it.
Last year you also talked about possibly and eventually working with the city, like shutting down streets and outdoor stages and stuff. Obviously that’s not happening, but I did notice the Tucscon Weekly did a big profile on you and the fest recently. Are you finding “non-metal” parts of the city getting friendlier with you?
Absolutely. That was how we got in with The Rialto and once we were in with them, the folks at Hotel Congress, which is literally across the street and has been around for hundreds of years – it’s where John Dillinger got caught and it’s always written up as one of America’s best bars and venues – once they saw we were at The Rialto and doing the after shows at The District, they came over to me and said that The District won’t be open next year and that they wanted the after shows. It’s really cool that the downtown set that doesn’t normally pay attention to underground metal have looked at it and see exactly what’s going on. We have an awesome music scene in Tucscon, tons of really good bands and what’s crazy is the way they cross-pollinate. You may have heard of a band called Sex Prisoner that’s on a389; their drummer Gilbert is the guitarist in this completely different super-indie garage band band called Prom Body which have been in Pitchfork and the New York Times. The folks downtown are starting to realise that these guys that play in bands that regularly play there have these other bands that are just as popular, but are from this other heavier genre that they ignored before. For the folks at Club Congress who generally don’t get behind metal shows – I think Red Fang, the Sword and maybe Helmet is the heaviest it’s ever gotten there – to get behind this is a huge step forward. And this year we have people who are flying in from Australia, Germany and South America and making reservations at Hotel Congress and other hotels downtown.
With time are you finding the process of booking and doing this getting smoother and easier as you go along?
It’s definitely gotten easier. You make a few new contacts, talk to this booking agent, meet new people and start putting puzzle pieces together. Some of the things do get a little ridiculous at times. The SWTF email inbox at this point is probably 96% bands that want to play that aren’t from this genre at all. Like we got Neurosis, so I don’t mind if a sludge band or whatever writes asking if there are any spaces left. I get it. But there’s a real funny one right now where I’ve had a 40-50 email exchange with a Russian folk band that, in the beginning, I said “thank you, but no” to. I think they took the ‘thank you’ as a ‘yes, I want to book you.’ They then started writing me about when they should expect their plane tickets and hotel reservations and all that and the whole time I’m writing them back, “Guys, I’m not bringing you to America.” I know there’s a way to do it with visas and whatnot, but I’m not there yet. So, even if they were in the genre that I wanted, I couldn’t do it. It got to the point where they started getting really snippy with me, as if I was backing out on a deal with them. So, it was kind of mean of me, I know, but at that point I introduced them to this Nigerian prince I know that had $40 million that he needed to clear and told them if you send this guy your info, he’ll put money in your account, use that money to buy your plane tickets and we’ll be waiting for you [laughs].
Having said that, in the future are you looking at bringing bands from overseas that you’ll eventually have to do paperwork and visa applications for or don’t you want to deal with the hassle?
Yes. I’d love to book Bolt Thrower and Electric Wizard and if I ever do that, I know I’ll have to figure it out. I don’t know if we’re quite there yet, those are obviously super-expensive bands as well and I have to know I can consistently sell enough to provide for bringing those bands over as well. But we have talked about the future and about how at some point one of us is going to have to learn to do work visas and whatnot. It’s just more paperwork; I’ll work it out.
October 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th
Rialto Theatre | The District Tavern
Thursday night: Kickoff show at The District:
10:00 – 10:30 Conqueror Worm (Tucson)
10:45 – 11:15 Twingiant (Phoenix)
11:30 – 12:15 Oryx (NM)
12:30 – 1:30 -(16)- (CA)
Friday night: Main show at Rialto:
6:30 – 7:00 Godhunter (Tucson)
7:15 – 7:55 Eagle Twin (UT)
8:10 – 9:00 Pelican (IL)
9:15 – 10:15 Goatsnake (CA)
Friday night: After show at The District:
10:30 – 11:00 Spiritual Shepherd (NV)
11:15 – 11:45 TOAD (Phoenix)
12:00 – 12:30 BlackQueen (WA)
12:45 – 1:45 The Atlas Moth (IL)
Saturday night: Main show at Rialto:
6:30 – 7:00 Sorxe (Phoenix)
7:15 – 7:45 Author & Punisher (CA)
8:00 – 8:40 The Body (OR)
8:55 – 10:45 Neurosis (CA)
Saturday night: After show at The District:
10:30 – 11:00 Windmill Of Corpses (Prescott)
11:15 – 11:45 Secrets Of The Sky (CA)
12:00 – 12:30 North (Tucson)
12:45 – 1:45 Primitive Man (CO)
Sunday night: Main show at Rialto:
6:00 – 6:30 Sex Prisoner (Tucson)
6:45 – 7:15 Obliterations (CA)
7:30 – 8:00 Baptists (Canada)