Los Angeles Murderfest Returns!: Q&A with founder Dan Dismal

After a five-year hiatus, The Los Angels Murderfest returns next month in the form of Mini-Murder 2016! We get the scoop on all things murderous and festivus from founder Dan Dismal.

You’re from LA originally, yes? When did you first start booking shows there?
This is where the Los Angeles in me will come out [Laughs]. I was actually born in Glendale, CA but I spent my salad days on the streets of North-East Los Angeles. My family moved to the San Fernando Valley once I was old enough to get in trouble though. Pretty much been a Los Angeles County native my entire life, though I’ve spent brief periods elsewhere.

As for booking shows though, I really started as a “promoter” in high school (Class of ’93, baby!). My buddies had a band and I would hang with them, go to shows, help them with gear and do a bunch of things for and with them. I used to design flyers and pass them out at shows and just get behind them. I actually used to have bands in high school but we never played out… but get this, I would make flyers for us and pass them out. Just to spread the word about a band that really never did anything. During one of my living situations away from Los Angeles proper, I started to book shows in the Antelope Valley. For those of you not familiar with SoCal, the AV is a weird area within L.A. county. It’s a desert, there’s nothing to do and when I moved out there after High School I found the closest group of degenerates that I could, we started a band and we started playing shows whenever and wherever. At the time, I didn’t have the church moniker yet but between 1994-96 I was booking shows under the name “Shit-4-Brains.” This is the time where myself and this guy named Aaron Cross founded the band Epicedium.

Tell me about the origins of Church of the 8th Day… if you haven’t already in your answer to the previous question.
In 1996 I tried out for a band called Crematorium. Crematorium was a band I used to see “back in the day” and once they decided to let me in the band, I moved back down to Los Angeles proper. This was where some of the origins of Church of the 8th Day began. Creamtorium would book shows and myself and guitarist, Mark Uehlein would promote them. We would promote more than most bands. We’d design flyers, print them, go to every show, pass them out, just put in WORK! We did it all because we believed in pushing our name. At one point though, it became daunting. Doing all this work, never getting anything for it and that’s when I said “fuck it” and started to look into doing everything on my own. Come 1999-2000 I decided I would work as a promoter of sorts, but the promotion entity was only when Creamtorium was playing… until I started seeing other bands needing the same attention. The actual name “Church of the 8th Day” came from multiple things and I started using the name in 2001, but the “company” was established well before, it just didn’t have a name. Come 2001, I was in a band called 8THDAYEXTINCTION with Sacha Dunable of Intronaut and I started having parties in my backyard. At the time I also fancied myself a writer, so I started posting chapters, musings and rants on Live Journal (Yes, that long ago) and the title was “This is Armageddon… The teachings of the Church of the 8th Day. Now, for the actual name, I love Integrity and [vocalist] Dwid had the “Church of the Holy Terror and Final Judgment”—I decided to go with “8th Day” under the pretense that god took six days to create the universe, the 7th day he rested but on the 8th, he realized his mistake and created extinction. Pretty prolific, eh? The first time you will ever see the 8th Day moniker on any flyer though it will say “Church of the 8th Day Gathering Campaigns” because the original idea was that I would throw these parties on Sundays and we’d all get together and worship under the flag of music, not religion.

I believe the first Los Angeles Murderfest took place in 2005. What was the impetus for taking on a project like that?
That was actually [the first] version 2.0, the FIRST Murderfest took place in 2003 at the Hully Gully and was quite a sordid affair, musically. Death metal, grind, hardcore, heavy metal… anything I personally liked. I didn’t really care if anyone else was into it, it was all supposed to be an all-in-one fest, chock full of music from across the spectrum, all done for any fan whom appreciated underground music. Now, that was a smaller event, though awesome. The 2005 version was the year that I decided I was going to go for broke. I already [did] another fest called the Labor Day Metal Massacre and I saw the glee on people’s faces. I wanted to bring a legitimate fest to L.A.. At that time Church of the 8th Day was already firing on all cylinders so I reached out to my contact at the Knitting Factory in Hollywood, blocked off three days and went to work. The daunting thing was organizing all the tour schedules, getting in touch with agents or bands directly and of course, coughing up the 25k in deposits, travel, hospitality etc up front to get the thing going. Version 2.0 was a financial disaster to be very honest BUT I saw that people reacted, bands loved it and the seeds were planted. Los Angeles finally had a fest of their own.

Murderfest ran through 2009. What were some of your best memories of the shows?
The memories really stem around a lot of the bands and the fans. At the time, a lot of the bands I was getting were honestly not given love, nor respect then. I hit them up, asked them to come play my fest, offered them GOOD money to do so and a lot of the times the bands thought I was crazy. I told them that I could show them what Los Angeles could do for them. I saw some of these bands play shows in previous years with only 10-100 people there but I knew that those shows were not done right, nor done by the right people. The constant, “man, you weren’t lying, this is awesome” parts of the fest will live with me forever. Obviously I booked a lot of bands that knew they would do well but that was a small percentage to be honest. It truly was about the “come to L.A., play this intimate venue, I will keep the door cheap and people will go nuts for you” aura of this fest. I never wanted to grow, I never wanted a larger venue, I just wanted to keep kicking people in the balls, or lady balls, year after year. The looks on the fans faces, their comments, the money they would spend and the times they would share… man, that’s why the fest was so magical. There was never an aura of “pay me, I gotta get rich” going on, anywhere. This fest was about the music, bottom line.

What’s the grossest thing you saw in the old Knitting Factory men’s room?
I’ve seen a lot over the years but I walked into the men’s bathroom once and there was piss and god knows what else on the floor. I noticed a pair of feet standing away from the toilet, pants down. I thought dude was taking a shit but then I noticed another person, on their knees, in this sea of human excrement. The stall had no door, so once I finished urinating I went and peaked in and I saw some crusty dude being blown by some crusty chick. He looked at me, gave me a thumbs up and I proceeded to leave. It’s not that it was gross, I’ve seen worse, like some chick passed out on the toilet, skirt up, panties down, blood flowing from her hoo-hah and a bowl full of shit and vomit all over her chest, that’s gross, but this… this was just total “no respect” for one’s self. I got to hand it to that guy, he looked like he hadn’t showered since they invented indoor plumbing but he still had this chick knee deep in piss, puke, sweat and shit giving his pole a shining!

And what led to putting the Fest on ice?
The Knitting Factory closed—that’s it. The Knit was the fests home! The staff loved it, they supported it. They all knew the fans were awesome and they always looked forward to it. Only a few of them were into the music at first but by the end of the fest, as well as the run of the club and all the shows I’d hit them with, they were all supporters. Once I lost that home, I lost the fest. I went everywhere, had meetings, had people want to dump cash into me going “larger” and the bottom line, it wasn’t right. I never did the fest for any other reason than wanting to put on a good show for people in L.A. and to be honest, I never needed to bring it back, so away it went. I was always looking, but I always said, the fest will come back, if everything is right.

After Murderfest, you started working at Century Media, where you’re currently employed as a product manager. You also still front Crematorium. Is there any avenue of extreme metal you’re currently NOT involved in that you’d like to be a part of?
The funny thing, I worked for Century Media for awhile before I went on to become a promoter. I actually stopped working there to pursue touring with Crematorium, because we got signed and we went on the road a ton. I came back to Century Media in September of 2012 because there was a need for someone like me within the ranks. Century Media and I have had a storied history since 1999, whether I was an intern, or a sales assistant, or the Export Sales guy, or a guy managing bands on the roster, or the only dude in L.A. willing to book their baby bands originally… our history is rich and spans 15+ years. As for Crematorium, I’ve been in that band since 1995 and we took a break for a bit. I am not saying we’re back but since we played our first show in almost 5 years back in April of 2015, we’ve slowly been getting the gears going again. We’ll never be the touring band we were, we might play here and there, do some fests, some random shows and we might record our last album since we wrote it back in 2006-2009 but the band is for the passion of music now, not for anything else. As for anything else I’d like to be involved with, man, I would need to clone myself. I am already stretched thin as is but I am one of those guys whom support this scene no matter what. People come to me for shows, for advice and for help. I am like a one-stop shop in a sense. I am the guy you always know will get your back at the end of the day, and to me, that’s the only thing I really want to be known as.

After a five-year hiatus, you’ve resurrected Murderfest in the form of MiniMurder, a three-day event in Glendale, featuring Cattle Decapitation, Gravehill, Nausea and host of others. How did this come about?
Well, a few years ago, my friend Tony from the band Bedlam of Cacophony started a page to get people talking about the fest again. I was always trying to bring it back, as I said, but at the time I was pretty sure people forgot and probably didn’t care. Maryland Deathfest had taken off and honestly, I respect Ryan and Evan so much and give them 100% support, so I thought, why does this fest matter anymore. He stated he wanted to start a page to show me otherwise, so he launched it and the support was through the roof. People loved the fest, they missed it, they wanted it back. So, my fire to find a spot was burning again. Over and over though, venues didn’t seem to match up and I kept breaking the promise to bring the fest back. In 2015 I thought to myself, here I am booking at Complex, all these shows are going awesome. The staff there is like the Knitting Factory because they love and support my bands and fans, I just always knew it was too small for the fest, especially being a one stage venue. Then it hit me, the original fest was at a small bar and the fest in itself was always about the times, the vibes and the memories, not about the damned size of the venue. That’s when the Mini-Murder idea was born. The MM is a catalyst to the Murderfest because as I work on a venue for the “big boy”, the overall feeling and spirit can live on. With that, I went to work, I had a lot of letdowns with bands not being able to play or the overall size of the venue not allowing for the budget to fly in bands from across the pond but what I ended up with, I am stoked on. The fest is amazing, the line up is stacked, the feeling is there and the support has been amazing. Yes, this might not be the Murderfest but it’s the exact feeling of that bastard. This can lead to the beast coming back, but if not, this version will become the new standard for what Los Angeles has to offer and I, for one, am very excited.

How has the market for a metalfests changed in the years since Murderfest was last held?

Well, MDF has grown leaps and bounds, that thing is amazing, fucking hell, Ryan and Evan, hats off to you! In Los Angeles or SoCal, there’s been some fests to pop up like Dead Fest up in the bay, respect to you Gregg. Also, the California Deathfest has planted roots, again, Ryan and Evan, you guys! There’s Famine Fest and then there’s the Jesse Pintado legacy fest known as Grindcore, which I support in all facets. Las Vegas Death Fest, which Crematorium is playing this year, that fest is awesome and growing every year! Full Terror Assault is going on for a second year and all the work that Useless Christ is doing on the East Coast with their numerous outings is fucking awesome! Hell, even Arrogant Bastard is doing the OC Death Fest down in Orange County and those dudes are fully behind the Mini-Murder, so they’re on the streets trying to keep things going. On and on, I see a lot of fests popping up, some only once, some over and over. I see that there’s a demand for fests and I see that fans want to support. We, as Metal Heads want fests in the U.S. We don’t always want to travel to Europe to see an awesome fest. We have our own soil and it’s good to see so many people planting flags but this is Los Angeles, we need our own thing. The Murderfest has always been that thing. We had the Bestial Legions fest but that’s gone. To me, that was one of the only other legitimate fests out here, sans Grindcore. I don’t say that to discount anyone else’s fests in the Los Angeles area but that’s just how I see the fans approaching me. The Murderfest is needed and missed… it needs to be alive again.

So, are you gonna help out with next year’s Choosing Death Fest or what?
I would be honored man! You and Decibel have a long history with the Los Angeles Murderfest! Decibel has always stood behind the fest. Hell, I remember you setting up a table and giving away a ton of the mags and standing there with the Choosing Death book. Whatever you need, man—I am there!