On the first weekend of May a new, innovative festival will be taking place in Copenhagen for the very first time: No headliners, no money making, just DOOM and DIY.
HEAVY DAYS IN DOOMTOWN will be a very special event not only because of its most amazing line up – the festival, which is entirely committed to the principles of DIY, will also involve all kinds of visual arts and aims at merging aural and visual experiences. Reasons enough for us to be interested in HDDT.
The original plan was to conduct the interview with the whole collective behind HDDT, but as most people were piled in the massive amount of work that comes with preparations for HDDT, we got all our answers from Daniel Abecassis, who is part of Undergrundsmusikkens Fremme (UMF), the organization behind Heavy Days In Doomtown, the Kill-Town Death Fest (KTDF) and Killtown Bookings.
Empress: HDDT differs in so many ways from the usual festival. Why for example did you choose to let the bands play at different venues in Copenhagen?
Daniel: Hey! Thank you for inviting us to do the interview. You say that the fest differs in so many ways from other festivals. To that I can only say that I certainly hope so, cause that’s what we are aiming for: to create an alternative to the usual, commercial festivals.
About having the fest in different venues: We thought that it would be nice to have a fest that moves around from place to place, so that it will be a part of the whole city and include the whole “scene” by incorporating the main alternative venues. We haven’t really tried out the concept, apart from the “warm-up” concert we held at Loppen for KTDF 2011, and that worked out fine. Initially we had ideas to spread the fest to other parts of the country as well so that the bands we bring over could play more cities in Denmark while over here, but we soon gave up on that idea, because our friends in the other cities preferred to come over here for the fest instead of being at home…
Empress: HDDT will not only be a music festival but also involving other art forms. What kind of role do you expect the other arts to play, and which artists will be there?
Yes, we had the idea that HDDT should be more than a music festival, because we think that the genres this festival tries to capture hold more in them than just music, they also include their own unique aesthetics, atmospheres, ideas, visual concepts and moods. We have an artist collective connected to the organizing crew that will take care of all the other events that will happen during the fest apart from the music programme. The idea to incorporate exhibitions, installations, projections, happenings, events, decorations, murials etc. is a way for us to make this a more complex event. We want to bring in art to give the audience a fuller and more visual sensation while being at the fest, and we hope to give them a nicer, richer experience by presenting more options than just beer and music (not that there’s anything wrong with beer and music…).
We are really proud to be able to host exhibitons from the amazing artist David D’Andrea from Portland, USA, who is famous for his graphical work for The Roadburn Festival and numurous bands from within the doom spectrum. We are also happy to be hosting Glyn Scrawled from Northern Ireland who is also famous for his work with screenprinting and album cover art and The 13th Sign Collective from Berlin who also does amazing DIY screenprinting art and who is designing the graphical concept for HDDT. Besides that, there will be a number of artists doing installations in metalwork with fire and we have decoration themes for the different concert rooms, projections, happenings and more.
Empress: How do you imagine the different kinds of art to interact?
Daniel: Well, in practice what we have mangaged to come up with are a few exhibiting artists, some visuals/projections indoors and on the outside of the buildings, some scrabmetal-art-installations with fire etc., some rooms decorated in different themes for atmosphere and some lightshows. We throw in an occasional happening here and there too… So hopefully the art part of the fest will be a nice supplement to the concert experiences.
Empress: The most important aspect of HDDT is the underlying DIY principle. UMF has already been successfully organizing the Kill-Town Death Fest and applying the principles of DIY there. Can you describe what exactly DIY means in this context?
Daniel: Yes I can try my best… DIY is a parallel network that works as an alternative to the corporate music industry. The punk scene has for the past 3 decades been establishing this structure where bands can tour, perform, record, release and distribute their music on a global scale without financial speculation from corporate money vultures. This structure is set up so that all bands will have an equal shot at perfoming in front of local crowds and releasing music on small independent labels and getting international distribution. The punk scene has over the years established itself with venues, rehearsal rooms and recording studios that function as the main framework on the local level of this structure. All of us in Undergrundsmusikkens Fremme are from this background and have or had some kind of affiliation with Ungdomshuset (the main DIY center) here in Copenhagen or similar places abroad. We like these structures so much that we thought that other music scenes could benefit and learn from how the punk scene has organzised itself. This is how KTDF started, and it is the trail that HDDT is trying out now, too.
Empress: You say that through the Kill-Town Death Fest you brought the DIY principles into the Scandinavian Death Metal Scene. Where exactly do you see the effects of that?
Daniel: We had 2 festivals so far with a fair amount of success. We have also launched a DIY touring agency (KILLTOWN BOOKINGS) that has now organized two international tours and has two more lined up (Sonne Adam (Israel) / Cruciamentum (uk), Funebrarum (us) / Undergang (dk), Sonne Adam (Israel) / Venenum (Germany) and Noothgrush (us) / Aldebaran (us)). I guess the success of spreading the DIY structures has been limited, but the festival has made itself a good name out there, and it has inspired at least a few similar festivals to take place. We are also receiving loads of emails from bands from all over the world that either want to play at the festivals or want us to organize tours for them. We have also initiated a series of cooporations with promoters, bookers, venues, labels and media to work with us on establishing alternative infrastructures for routes for touring bands. We think that this a pretty good start for a fairly newly started initaitive with big aspirations…
Empress: What can you say about the relationship between DIY-Scenes and the music industry in general? Will the first eventually win over the second?
Hahaha I certainly hope so! Actually I don’t really see it as a struggle between the DIY structures and the music industry. We have different interests, so we don’t really cross paths. The music industry wants to make money with the bands they sign, and the bands who get signed there want to live off their music and get famous etc. The aim of the DIY scenes is to provide all those bands that do not fit in this structure – and maybe don’t even want to – with channels to distribute their music in a non-commercial fashion. The DIY community does not want to deal with bands who want to make money, and the music industry only works with bands who generate profit, so in that sense we are operating in two different areas. Of course there is a grey area between the two, and some bands move from the one to the other.
Empress: Why have you now decided to start another festival following the same principles which is mainly focused on doom and the likes?
Daniel: Well with the”success” of KTDF and the UMF association I thought it could be interesting to venture out into more uncharted territories… But the idea itself for HDDT came up as a result of some talks between me and my friend Nikolaj. Nikolaj is a musician, and I am a booker, so we are coming from different ends of the spectrum, but both of us agreed that Copenhagen needed more self-organized events as a framework to bring in bands that otherwise maybe wouldn’t get to play up here. Both of us have been active in the DIY scene for many years, and we are both passionate music listeners, so we decided to call for a meeting to see if we could get a group together to start a new festival concept. Heavy Days In Doomtown is the result of that.
Empress: You’re also bringing a couple of bands to Europe that have not played here before, like Cauchemar, Noothgrush, Aldebaran, etc. What were the reasons you invited these bands and how did the bands coming from very far react to the idea of DIY and playing for free, so to say? Was it difficult to persuade them and did any bands refuse your invitation because of the DIY idea?
Daniel: We were very ambitious right from the beginning, so we invited all of our favourite bands. Some were very much into the idea and others were quite sceptical. Im really surprised that we actually pulled it of, and I think that we got a great line up together in the end. Some needed a bit more convincing, and for them I think the ideals mean less then the chance to get to play before a dedicated crowd and to tour Europe “for free”. Others just thought it was a great idea and wanted to support the concept. To those we are really grateful! With the bands we booked for their first European performances it was maybe a mix of coincidence and good timing. We are really proud and honored to be able to present and organize the first European concert for both Noothgrush and Aldebaran! That is like a dream coming true for me. But we put an effort into it and I had to travel all the way to the States to make this happen…
Empress: On your website you make it very clear that HDDT is supposed to be a place free from discrimination of women and homosexuals. Do you see a special need for that in the doom/metal scene?
Daniel: I think its necessary everywhere in society, but I don’t see it as a particular problem within the heavy rock/doom scene. In the metal community in general I think there is still a lot macho/sexist bullshit and racist attitudes and it is time to leave that behind. We live in the 21st century and we should by now have equality between the sexes, the races, and the different sexual persuasions even in the metal scene. I don’t see that it has anything to do with metal if you are a woman, a man, a black person or a gay. We all love the music and that’s the most important thing. People who think differently should read some books and leave their bigot beliefs on their bedroom dresser.
Empress: How do you perceive the role of women and homosexuals in the scene in general?
I am neither a woman nor a homosexual, so it is a bit hard for me to answer that. But I think that homosexuals are not very visible in the metal community and very few are outspoken about it. I think it’s cool that idols like Rob Halford and Gaahl from Gorgoroth have come out of the closet and created a debate in the metal community. But there is still a long way to go before homosexuality will be accepted in the metal scene.
I think that woman in metal have become more and more visible within the last decade or more, and I salute that tendency. I think it’s cool to have tough woman on the stages out there proving that any woman can play as well as any man. At HDDT we have made a special effort to have women in a lot of the bands who will be playing. So we are proud to present cool women in bands like Noothgrush, Aldebaran, Jex Thoth, Wounded Kings, Purson, Cauchemar, Jess and the Ancient Ones and Profetus.
Empress: Can you tell us something more about „Undergrundsmusikkens Fremme”, the collective behind HDDT?
Daniel: Undergrundsmusikkens Fremme is our legal front that works as an umbrella for KTDF, HDDT and Killtown Bookings. We have chosen to organize ourselves in an association in order to be able to deal with public institutions and to be able to interact in the political cultural debate. Our aim is to create a higher awareness of DIY and its potential as a self-organizational tool. We are not a political group as such, but through our events and happenings we try to inform people about DIY and spread the ideas behind it. We are currently negotiating with the City Council of Copenhagen on a number of issues and we hope to be able to create change in some of the cultural policies. We have no idea if this will lead anywhere… And we don’t have much faith in politicians so this is just an experiment. We will see where it takes us.
As for the HDDT collective our primary ambitions for now is to make it through the first weekend of May alive and not end up in financial ruin… We have taken some financial risk by having such high ambitions with the fest, so we hope to sell quite a lot of tickets and to get all the support we can possibly get – especially from the local scenes.
But we had to deal with a major blow, as Sleep have announced that they will play at Amager Bio (in Copenhagen) on Friday the 4th of May. We had tried to book them, but their management didn’t even bother to answer us. Instead they were so nice to place their gig right in the middle of our festival, so that all our potential guests will be out there and not at our show… We are really sad and frustrated about this – not that we don’t love and worship Sleep, but why should they choose to play Copenhagen on that exact date…?!?! They could have chosen 362 other days of the year… Well, we have been negotiating with their Danish booker and friend of ours from Gearbox Agency and we have come up with some sort of cooporation where our guests will get a discount on the Sleep show with a 4 day armband for HDDT. We hope this will help to attract more people from abroad – they can combine a Sleep concert with a full DIY doomfestival with a great lineup! We aren’t sure this strategy will work, but this is the best we can do out of a fucked up situation…
Empress: While organizing the festival you follow the principles of participatory democracy, so that all volunteers involved can have an influence on the shaping of the festival. What effects does that have on the organizational work?
Daniel: The main effect on the organizational work is hours and hours of meetings… We talk and discuss a lot to be able to reach consensus or at least agree on how to move on with the problematics to solve things in the best possible manner. Some of us have lots of experience in doing festivals and concerts and others are brand new, so it’s also a learning/teaching situation where experience and know-how are passed on from genration to generation. We think it is a nice way to organize events, but it is by far not the most efficient…
Empress: Last words?
Daniel: We really need your support, so please buy your ticket at http://billetto.dk/heavydaysindoomtown2012 sooner than later. We need to sell a lot of tickets in the presale, so tell all your friends to get a ticket, too… We are also still looking for people to help spreading the word about the fest, so if you are interested in helping out with promoting HDDT 2012, please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you a package of posters, flyers and stickers you can distribute in your local area. We can also send you the electronic version if you want to post it around on the net. I guess thats it for now.
Cheers and thank you for your support! Daniel A//E / HDDT Crew