Friday, May 25, 2012

House of Hellbastards - Part 1

For the last couple of days I have been hosting the UK band, Hellbastard, in my home, prior to their gig at the Maryland Deathfest on Saturday. Read a short band profile here and a short interview with Scruff Lewty the vocalist/fire breather here.

Don't let the name mislead you. These fellows have been stellar house guests. What I am losing in sleep, I am gaining in amazing memories. Here is what Scruff and guitarist Tom McCombe, bassist Paul O'Shea, drummer Josh Harris and their sound engineer Laine Pearce-Rees have been up to, aside from cooking us dinner, consuming massive quantities of cheap been, and giving the dogs more attention than they get in a year.  Watch below.

Come out to see them on Saturday, May 26 at 3:25 p.m., outside on Stage 2.  More later. I have to get some sleep.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

INTERVIEW: Maryland Deathfest organizer Evan Harting

Think about all the bands you like to listen to. Now imagine bringing a few dozen of those groups together to perform for you and a few (thousand) of your friends. That, in a sense, is exactly what Ryan Taylor and Evan Harting created when they created the Maryland Deathfest in 2003.

Over the last 10 years the Maryland Deathfest has grown into the largest and most well known metal festival in the US. This year Maryland Deathfest celebrates its tenth anniversary and takes place from Thursday, May 24 to Sunday, May 27 at Sonar on 407 E. Saratoga St. in Baltimore. Sixty-one different bands will perform on three stages over those four days.  Up to 1,700 people are expected for the Thursday night show and as many as 4,000 each day on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Saratoga Street between Gay St. and Holliday will be completely blocked off. The event will include vendors and food tents. It's a pretty big deal. 

Evan explained that he Ryan take care of every detail of the festival pretty much by themselves, from booking to scheduling to ordering the MDF t-shirts and working with vendors to the fulfillment of each band’s concert contract rider. The project takes an entire year to plan and execute, Evan said, and has grown so much over the last decade that the two men don’t really have other full-time jobs.

“THIS is our main job,” Evan said.

Evan and Ryan began thinking about a festival when they were just 18 and 20-years old, respectively, and both working in the restaurant industry. It was after a trip to the now defunct Ohio Deathfest in about 2000 that the notion first occurred."

Boxes of MDF mech ready to go. (Harting)
“That was the only festival we had been to, but I think that kind of stated the gears rolling,” Evan said. This was also around the time that the Milwaukee Metal Fest began to fall out of favor, which used to be popular in the 1990s. Apparently, Evan said, the organizer of that fest charged the bands to perform.

The team didn’t have a budget to work with, in fact, Evan said, even now they don’t have a budget set aside for the event. Instead, the money comes from ticket sales.

“We figure if we announce a lineup like this, and we get a minimum of this many people, then we will estimate that we will get this amount,” Evan explained. And so far, their formula has worked. “People appreciate the fact that we have done this for 10 years without any financial help.”

Of course, a little help from your friends does not hurt. Evan said that despite the fact that they have never organized a huge event before, they were not entirely unknown in the metal scene.

“We had both been in bands and had played out, especially Ryan,” Evan said. “The first Maryland Deathfest was initially only supposed to be a day-long fest with bands from the East coast. But as soon as we announced it, it went viral, and bands started writing to us from all other the place. It ended up being a 3-day fest the very first year,” Evan said. “I think people were just happy that someone was just giving it a shot.”

In addition to fulfilling an apparent hunger for live death metal, the team’s networking also led to a significant headlining act that first year.

“We ended up getting the reunion show of Suffocation, and that really helped things to start off. We had some other cool names on there, but having the reunion of Suffo really pushed it to the next level,” Evan said. (By the way Suffocation will play again this year on Sunday at 7:20 p.m.)

Over the years, the bands asked to play MDF have reflected the organizers’ somewhat obscure musical tastes. Essentially, they put together a lineup that does not mirror market trends but instead, demonstrates their deep knowledge of the genre and all its subgenres. The lineups at MDF over the last decade also seem to have become more diverse.

“As the festival grows, we still try to have an underground touch to it,” Evan said, “We listen to some obscure bands, so we like to keep that as part of it. And even before this current festival is over, we will already be talking about who we are going to have next year.”

Evan said that he has developed long lasting relationships with some of the groups that have played MDF. “It is really cool when we have bands come back and they aren’t even playing but they just come and hang out. We also know that we have friends all over the world; if we needed a place to stay, that would never a problem. For some of these big name bands, it has been cool to meet them on a personal level.”

Although they have been at it for 10 years, Evan said he and Ryan have no intention of calling it quits. “We will continue to do it for as long as people keep coming and without selling out and as long as we aren’t getting washed up bands.”

INTERVIEW: Red Fang's Bryan Giles with podcast

My first exposure to Red Fang was on a Relapse Records sampler. The song was "Number 13" from their album Murder the Mountains. As someone who listens to a lot of death and black metal, Red Fang's massive, swinging sound stood out to me as somehow "Southern." It wasn't what I usually listened to but, hey, I really liked what I heard. I can listen to both kinds of music, HEAVY and METAL, can't I? And Red Fang was definitely heavy.

Only later did I learn this stoner metal group hails from Portland, Oregon. I put them on my list of bands I needed to see live. And I hate myself for missing their sold out show at the 9:30 Club in the fall of 2011 when they toured with Mastodon. What did it matter that I had a final paper to write?

I can nearly forgive myself now, as Red Fang embarks on a short tour with another heavy stoner metal band, The Sword, form Austin, Texas. The combination of Red Fang with The Sword should bring out an interesting crowd of PBR-drinking, long-haired biker types. 

Red Fang starts off June with a short headlining tour before meeting up with The Sword on their home turf. The duo plays Baltimore on June 21 at Sonar, which is where I will see them,. For this show, and a couple others, they will be joined by Liquid Metal favorites, Kyng from Los Angeles.

Again, these three bands sharing one stage is almost too much to comprehend. The evening will be ruled by beer bellies, big beards, heavy guitar riffs and clean melodic masculine vocals. If this show only had a BBQ going in the alley and a burnout contest in the parking lot, my sweaty, rocking' redneck-y evening would be complete. 

I had the chance to speak with Red Fang's guitarist Bryan Giles recently, and he told some interesting stories about their recent European tour with Black Tusk (another band I need to see live). The conversation ranged from the importance of funding art in public schools to wardrobe and hygiene while on tour. Thanks for the chat, Bryan.

You can listen to the entire conversation at this the link below. 

Red Fang headling dates include:
June 1: Seattle, WA @ Highline

June 12: Boise, ID @ Neurolux
June 13: Salt Lake City, UT @ Bar Deluxe
June 14: Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge
June 16: Denton, TX @ Rubber Gloves

Red Fang mini-tour supporting The Sword dates include:
June 17: Houston, TX @ Fitzgeralds (feat. Honky)
June 18: New Orleans, LA @ House of Blues Parish (feat. Honky)
June 19: Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade (feat. Kyng)
June 20: Raleigh, NC @ Kings Barcade (feat. Kyng)
June 21: Baltimore, MD @ Sonar (feat. Kyng)
June 22: Westchester, PA @The Note (feat. Kyng)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Countdown to MDF X: (1) Electric Wizard

The last band to play outside on Sunday, May 27 at the 2012 Maryland Deathfest will be UK stoner doom stalwarts Electric Wizard. After four straight days of all manner of death metal, black metal, grind core and noise, the crowd will be ready for something a bit more laid-back and introspective. Well, maybe that's not an accurate description of Electric Wizard, but this is certainly music devoid of blast beats and rich with layers upon layers of doom-y spacey goodness.

Founded in 1993, Electric Wizard consists of founding member Justin Oborn (Guitar & Vocals), Liz Buckingham (Guitar),  Simon Poole (Drums) and Glenn Charman (Bass). Their music sounds like it's being piped in from an earlier era. It is chockfull of fuzzy, psychedelic and distorted guitar riffs and droning bass.  The group has taken their throw back aesthetic to the extreme, in that their entire 2007 album Witchcult Today was recorded on vintage equipment from the 1970s. Nothing says authentic like recording in analog.

Drugs and the occult form the basis of the group's lyrical content. Even the Electric Wizard logo looks like the thick smoke billowing up from a pipe or bong. Hearing just a few chords of one of their songs makes me want to dig out my bell bottom jeans and fringed leather jacket, if I had them to dig out.

Electric Wizard is working toward releasing a new full-length album but until then, the group has issued a 7-inch single entitled "Legalise Drugs and Murder." Their appearance at MDF is the group's first trip to the US in more than a decade. I don't know if they all have any kind of psychedelic slide-show back drop, but it would be kind of cool if they did.