Hello. Just a bit busy getting ready for the festival because it’s in less than 3 weeks, but my day is going well because this will probably be one of the last somewhat calm days for me before the festival kicks off.
Give us a brief history of the Maryland Deathfest, and also a bit about yourself and Evan.
We’re both from Baltimore and we met in high school sometime in 1998 if I remember correctly. Back then, we quickly found out that we shared a similar interest in music, and we both started getting into more underground extreme music when we were in high school as well. The concept of MDF originated in December of 2002 when Evan and I were bored at work and first started talking about organizing a show. At first, we were only talking about having 1 long day of bands, but after we announced the info about the show, the interest from bands and fans kept growing, and it turned into a 3 day festival in the first year. It was a pretty big risk for us in 2003 because we had no money up front to pay for anything, and we had to rely on selling enough tickets in order to survive it all. Fortunately, just enough people showed up for us to break even on expenses, and because of that we decided to try it again for a second time in 2004. Since then, we’ve never really looked back and the fest has evolved into the biggest of it’s kind in North America.
What is the music scene and metal scene in Maryland like? I have read that Maryland is known for it’s doom metal scene, but how is the reception for other extreme metal genres?
Maryland, and Baltimore specifically, has a pretty medium-sized market for music and live shows. It’s close to other heavily populated areas like Philadelphia, DC/Northern Virginia, so traditionally Baltimore has always had to compete with other areas when metal tours get routed through the northeast of the US. It’s hard to use MDF as a gauge for how well of a reception extreme metal gets from locals because people travel from all over the world for the fest, but I’d say that only a small percentage of ticket sales for the fest are from people in Maryland. I haven’t ever known Maryland to be a mecca for doom metal, but maybe I’m missing something.
When Maryland Deathfest first kicked off in 2003, bands such as Suffocation and Necrophagist were already on the bill. How did that come about, and how did Maryland Deathfest progress from then to one of the biggest metal fests in America?
It was just a coincidence that Suffocation reformed right around the time we announced the first festival in 2003, so it made sense to book their first show back after a 5 year hiatus. In fact, word of the fest spread even more as soon as we announced the Suffocation reunion, so it’s safe to say that it helped us quite a bit in the first year. Back then, Necrophagist wasn’t anywhere near as known as they are now and had just a sold out version of Onset of Putrefaction. It didn’t keep people from really looking forward to seeing them, and Relapse Records ended up signing them shortly after their performance at MDF 2003. MDF has progressed over the years based on our formula of booking a variety of bands, bands that never played the US or haven’t played the US in many years, and scoring some reunions that nobody ever thought would be possible. Ultimately, more people are turning up to the festival each year, so it gives us the opportunity to spend even more on bands to make the billing what it is nowadays.
Since then, there have been several changes in venue until the current Sonar Baltimore venue. Was it hard finding a suitable venue for the fest in Maryland?
Not really. We secured Sonar for the 2006 festival about 3 or 4 days after the 2005 festival ended. The venue we had to use in a last minute situation in 2005 was not the best, and the owner was a complete asshole, so as soon as 2005 was done we acted on finding a new venue, and we’ve been at Sonar ever since 2006.
Are you guys particular about what bands you pick for the fest, seeing that you had legendary bands like Mayhem and Absu performing in 2009? How are the bands usually chosen?
Yeah, we’re very particular about what bands are picked to play the fest. About 90% of the bands that play are initially contacted by us, and the other 10% are bands that write us. We get hundreds and hundreds of requests from bands about playing, and although we’re flattered that everyone considers MDF to be one of the best festivals to play, we just can’t book many bands that write us.
This year, bands like Nirvana 2002, Repulsion and Autopsy will be taking the stage. What is the process of getting huge bands to play for you like?
Autopsy was 3 or 4 years of bugging Chris Reifert about it, even though he said a reunion would never happen. A few of those guys played MDF twice before with Abscess, so it wasn’t hard to convince him that if they do a Autopsy reunion, MDF is the perfect place for it to happen. Nirvana 2002 and Repulsion weren’t really difficult to convince either because both bands know it’s a once in a lifetime scenario to be sharing the stage with each other and be a part of a really special billing in general.
What were some of the largest obstacles that you and Evan had to face? How did you eventually managed to overcome them?
Aside from finding a new venue back in 2005, I can’t think of any major obstacles. The first year was an obstacle because organizing a festival was something completely new to us, but since then we’ve learned a lot and put that knowledge to work in order to cut down on the amount of stress we have to deal with.
It was announced recently that a movie will be made for the Maryland Deathfest. Perhaps you could give our readers a brief introduction of this movie, and give us a little bit of background on what was it that made you want to film this movie.
We’ve always wanted to film MDF for some kind of DVD release, but we just didn’t know the right crew or have the money to produce it. That all changed in 2008 when David Hall of Handshake, Inc. got in touch to see if we’d be interested in having him produce a movie about the 2009 festival. The movie features live footage of bands that agreed to appear in it, and interviews with both bands and fans. It’ll be released at the 2010 festival.
Will this movie have a worldwide distribution?
I’m not sure about worldwide distribution right now, but for anyone internationally that’s interested in getting the DVD, it can be bought at www.handshakeinc.com or directly from our website beginning in June. It’s possible to pre-order the movie from the Handshake, Inc website right now, and those copies will ship out in June.
Besides being an organizer for this event, do you play in any bands or have any other jobs?
At the moment, MDF is my only job, especially this time of year. It’s too time consuming for me to work somewhere else in the spring because my main focus needs to be on MDF. I spent a lot of time living overseas in the last 5 years, and for a few years I was teaching English in Europe, but it’s been a while since I had a teaching job.
I haven’t played in any bands since sometime in 2002, and I was in bands from about 1995-2002. Evan is singing in a new band that’s still without a name, and he used to play in Quills. Maybe sometime in the next year or two I’ll start writing again.
As a fan of metal music and also an organizer for such a reputable fest, are any of your favourite bands playing for the upcoming fest?
I usually don’t determine who my favorite bands are in general, but as far as who I’m looking forward to the most at the 2010 fest, that would probably be Autopsy, Wolfbrigade, From Ashes Rise, Entombed, Nirvana 2002, and Gorguts.
Any expectations for the festival for this year?
We expect it to be just as good and fun as previous years, and the only difference will be the addition of a second outside stage. Last year was the first time we used 2 stages, and this will be the first time we’re using 3 stages, so that’s rather exciting.
Any parting words for our readers and fans of metal out there?
Thanks for reading this and I hope to see you at MDF this year, or sometime in the future if you can’t make it this year!
Thank you once again for this interview, on behalf of the crew at Heavy Metal Tribune, I wish you all the best and success for the show this May!
|L-R: Evan, Ryan. Organisers of Maryland Deathfest|
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