Wednesday, February 15, 2012

an exclusive interview with Mike Smith about the DAYS OF THE DOOMED FEST.

I don't know if that'll end in a kind of serie, but I really enjoyed interviewing recently Albert Bell about the Malta Doom Metal Festival and it seems you liked that too as it is the most popular post of the year so far... So I felt that if there was another one in the genre to do next and  in priority, that would be with Mike Smith about the DAYS OF THE DOOMED  Festival !
Taking place in Kenosha (Wisconsin) next June, this festival presents maybe the best ever line-up in the DOOM category (relation quantity/quality), just imagine EARTHRIDE, REVELATION, BLOOD FARMERS, WAR INJUN, EARTHEN GRAVE, ORODRUIN, SOLACE, WHILE HEAVEN WEPT, OGRE, RITUALS OF THE OAK, LAS CRUCES and about 10 more to share the stage, this just sounds like an awesome promise of doomed madness during the first week-end of summer !!! I would be almost ready to lose a ball to go there... oh well, this is will be for a next edition ;)
Thanx to Mike who presents with passion and realism his festival; no strass, no burning ambitions, just the passion of Doom and the willing to share great moments with friends and bring the best entertainment possible to everyone present... Support him, by going to the fest and/or taking part in his amazing Raffle Of Doom and spread the word about this exceptionnal event !

Hey Mike, so how did you decide to organize the DOTD fest ? Is there an event and/or someone who helped you to take the decision ?
Great question! Like a lot of people, I have been going to doom related shows for some time. I'm priviledged to say that I first saw Trouble in 1987! As the years went by with several shows under my belt, I started to travel a bit. I made it a point to really hit some of the other fests that the U.S. had to offer, no matter how "underground" they might have seemed. Indianapolis' Templars of Doom Fests, created by Jason McCash from The Gates of Slumber, were superb, as were many of the Baltimore area fests, particularily for me, Born to be Doomed in 2010. Hats off to John Brenner, John Gallo, Josh Hart, etc. for putting on some truly great events out east! So on my flight home from Born to be Doomed, I really started to consider putting on a fest of my own in my neck of the woods. Being right in the middle of Milwaukee and Chicago seemed to have built in benefits. After many e-mails and kind words of encouragement from McCash and Brenner, I decided to go for it. Further advice and support came from Tony Spillman, Ron Holzner, and Michael Lindenauer. Let it be known that there would be no Days Of The Doomed Fest without those who have been mentioned.

Is there things that are easier than what you imagined before starting and on the contrary some that are much harder than what you expected ?
I wouldn't actually say that anything is easy, per se. Everything is a challenge, some things more than others. Because I envisioned Days Of The Doomed Fest on a much grander scale, a lot more planning needed to go into the fest. I wanted professional sound and staging, rather than relying on a bar to provide that, so I rented a hall and had everything brought in. Simple things like allowing bands to have their own merch tables set up for the entire event, or better lighting, or backdrops behind the stage... Then of course there is promoting the event, and how to go about reaching the greatest number of people, where to advertise, what incentives to use. The list is endless! I literally lay awake at night sometimes thinking of ways to help promote Days Of The Doomed!

 During the course of the 1st edition, you had help from a great part of your family (including sisters, wife and father in law) I suppose that was also pretty memorable moments to share with them ? and was the mother in law doing baby –sitting for the kids ? I suppose you also had help from metalheads and volunteers, do you plan to get some more this year ?
Having my family participate in the fest was very special for me. I can't say they all have the passion for metal the way I do, but they all believed in what I was doing and really wanted to be a part of it. I think most of the crowd knew my father-in-law by name at the end of the fest! My wife, sister, and sister-in-law all took turns checking people in, selling tickets and merch among other things. My wife even picked up Jeff "Oly" Olson and his wife Leigh up from the airport! I owe her so much. As for my stage crew, all I can say is that I have some of the best friends in world. Days Of The Doomed Fest would NEVER have ran as smoothly as it did without them. We had set changes down to a science, and we never once ran behind schedule. Not bad considering we only had 20 minutes between bands with 20 bands performing that weekend! We had the perfect system for staging bands before their sets, and getting bands off stage in an orderly fashion. I am very happy to say that friends and family alike will be part of Days Of The Doomed Fest II this June! And yes... my wonderful mother-in-law was doing the babysitting!!!

What’s the best souvenir of the 1st edition and the worst ?
Oh man, the best by far is the bass drum head I received from Karl Simon from The Gates of Slumber. He said it was "Cool" Clyde's idea, but what they did unbeknowst to me was have as many band members taking part in the fest sign this bass drum head. It's awesome! Ron Holzner, Andy Beresky, John Gallo, "Butch" Balich... everyone is on there! Thank you J. Clyde Paradis! Worst? Probably just the lack of sleep I got! I had several bands stay with me that weekend, and there were many drinks and many laughs late into the night! Just ask Josh Hart...

20 bands in 2011 and the same number for this year, is it  a maximum you can not or don’t want to exceed ?
Twenty bands was basically just enough to keep things running smoothly without running into problems. Plus, if we added more bands, set times would have to be drastically reduced, and that's not fair to anyone. However, if things go well enough to ensure a Days Of The Doomed Fest III, I am considering adding a two hour break on Saturday to allow for a dinner break.

 After their participation to the 1st edition, ORODRUIN, BLACKFINGER, ARGUS, APOSTLE OF SOLITUDE, LAS CRUCES, EARTHEN GRAVE are programmed again this year… is there any particular reason to that ?
      Earthen Grave and Blackfinger having TROUBLE heritage, and being from Chicago, almost make them "hometown favorties", so I was very interested in having them return, which they graciously agreed to. I have decided to move them over to Friday night, which in turn opens up Saturday not only to first time participants, but allows me to provide better time slots for returning bands, like Apostle of Solitude for example. Obviously I couldn't have every band return this year, but I'm sure you will see some of the originals back in 2013 if all goes according to plan. I already have a verbal agreement with Iron Man and Pale Divine!

The line-up includes more important bands this year, were you confronted to any difficulties to attract them ?
I don't think any one band is really more important than another. Each band is more than worthy of playing Days Of The Doomed Fest. I think I know what you're saying, however. Some bands may seem to have a "bigger name" or following in the public eye. I really didn't have any difficulties in attracting any of them: some contacted me, others I contacted myself. Tom Philips and I had been in negotiations for Days Of The Doomed I, but that was just not meant to be. Fortunately, he and I have kept a good rapport, and I am very excited to have While Heaven Wept on the bill this year. I guess if you wanted to label any bands as "important", it would be Solace and Ogre. I am delighted to have both bands reactivated and sharing their music live with us once again!

     About the presence from RITUALS OF THE OAK… how did it happen that an Australian band was added to the line-up ? Did you help them to find other dates in the US ? Should we expect more foreign bands in the future or do you think that travel costs will always be a hard constraint towards that ?
Long story short: Corey Webb, drummer for Apostle of Solitude, suggested them to me after he had worked with them on a split LP. I really enjoyed what Rituals was doing, so I finally got in contact with Sabine, their lead vocalist. As it turns out, they were already going to be in the U.S. this summer, so it really worked out well for them to take part in the fest. I have been working on putting together some extra shows for them immediately following the fest. As of right now, we have them booked in Chicago and Indy, and then they continue on to the New York area where Sabine has friends that have set up additional gigs. All in all, the timing was great. Can't wait to see Rituals of the Oak in June!!! More foreign bands at Days Of The Doomed Fest in the future? Count on it!

Could you present a bit The Hall of Lore and your town Kenosha  please ? Is there any particular touristic points that Robert Azzopardi and other foreign doomsters should point on their map as tourists ?
Man, I'm so impressed that Robert is coming over for the fest! Awesome! In the area nearest the "Hall of Lore" (which is a name I gave it- the building is under new ownership and they had no name planned as of yet, so they told me to make one up!!!), there are several establishments worth peeking in on. The venue, as well as the preferred hotel, are right on the Lake Michigan harbor, so there are several scenic walkways next to the lake, as well as light house landmarks, several pubs and restaurants, unique shops, art gallerys, and museums. We also have a trolley line that can take you all the way around the harbor area of Kenosha.

In 2011 the definitive line-up was announced in May, not long before the festival, was that the main explanation to the weak turnout of this 1st edition ? Is that also why you started promotion much earlier this year and in larger proportions too
I wouldn't go so far as to say it was a weak turnout: every event has to have a starting point. Unfortunately, fests like Days Of The Doomed aren't lucky enough to have thousands of people show up like they do in Europe. That's just how it is here in the U.S., and that's sad. People in the States tend to like disposable, "flavor of the month" type bands presented to them on energy drink sponsored tours. Very few people loyally support bands anymore. It's a shame because there are so many fucking amazing bands that deserve far more attention than what they receive. So getting back to last year's numbers, I have to say I was more than happy with the turnout. I think we peaked at just over 200, and I would like to build on that this year. In terms of starting promotion for this year, we started so early because that's just how fast the line up was filled! I think that is paramount in recognizing just how well received last year's fest actually was. I'd like to believe that all the bands involved last year truly enjoyed themselves and appreciated how they were treated, and that word of mouth spread to other bands.

Mike, you also did recently some very interesting interviews with some of the bands that will play at the fest, last one being with David Szulkin… did you have great echoes about that ? Who will be next ones interviewed ? MetalKaoz took quickly the opportunity to hire your skills for being a part of their writing team, another new exciting activity, how do you see this new collaboration ?
David made that interview all his own, and I got a TON of positive feedback from those that read it. He had a lot to say, and it was all very interesting to hear. Many thanks to David for taking the time to do that interview! As far as who's next, it looks like it will be Joseph Rowland from Pallbearer, and that one will go directly to Metal Kaoz.
Speaking of Metal Kaoz, what an absolute treat it is for me to be working with them. I recently had the honor of doing a phone interview with Ben Ward from Orange Goblin for Metal Kaoz which was really something. We ended up talking a lot longer than I think we both expected! Look for that interview soon! The team that makes up the Metal Kaoz site/magazine are some of the biggest metal fans I've ever come in contact with. They literally BLEED metal! I can't thank Maria and Dimitris enough for bringing me into the fold!

If you had to name  3 bands you’re the most impatient to see playing, who would they be ?
     Wow. I don't think I can name one let alone 3! I'm looking forward to each one! Earthride and the Blood Farmers are going to devastate. While Heaven Wept and Revelation will be epic! Las Cruces will come out pounding! Ogre's set is going to be very captivating. They are such a revered band in the genre and I'm so glad they'll be at the fest. Geez, Argus and Orodruin... nope, can't name 3! How about 20?
This year again, there's a few rather unknown but certainly promising bands like BEELZEFUZZ, SNAKE DANCE or CYRUS... what can you say about them ? In general did you receive many candidatures ? Which bands were you the most surprised to get on the line-up ? Did you have good hopes for one or several bands that finally didn't work for this edition ?

 Like I said, I had several bands contact me, and I have a back up list a mile long to prove it! So yes, there were some candidatures.  
Wait until you see Beelzefuzz. They have such a highly unique sound, and Pale Divine's Darin McCloskey sits behind the kit! Snake Dance is from Chicago, and they meld the best of Sabbath with the Ramones. Good stuff. And Cyrus is the side project of Orodruin's Mike Puleo. Oustanding, organ oriented music with rich vocals. Do not miss them!!!!!
As far as surprises, it is without a doubt Solace. I knew they hadn't played in some time, so I just took a stab at it and wrote to Tommy Southard. To my surprise, it all worked out within a couple hours time and Solace was on the bill! Bands that didn't work? Well, there were two in particular, but we have already discussed 2013, so I can't really disclose any info at this time. Sorry!

What would you consider as the best moment for you the week-end of the festival :- just a few minutes before the beginning of the festival, with the satisfaction to have done everything possible to make it a success and the enormous excitement to see tons of killer bands
- during the show of your fave band, drinking a good fresh beer and enjoying as a fan just for yourself
- right after the end when all pressure falls and everyone is congratulating you for your great work
- any other of your choice
No question about it. Just as the fest is about to come to a close, I've let lose with a beer or two, and the pressure is fading away... and I see lots of smiles on people's faces- that's the best part for me. VERY gratifying indeed. One thing I swear I'm going to try and do this year is talk to more fest attendees. Last year I ran around so much making sure everything was running properly that I really didn't get to "hang" with as many people as I would have liked to. Hopefully that will change this year. Oh! And take more pictures with people! Gotta do that!

You've negociated prices with Best Western Hotel for bands and fans accomodations, was it a difficult task to sell your business to get the best conditions possible ? Did you feel they had a good opinion towards doomsters/metalheads ?
The people at the Kenosha Harborside Best Western really are the "best". There was never an issue with them in making reduced priced hotel accomodations available. They were behind the fest from the first meeting I had with them. After last year, they were more than happy to have us back. There were no problems at the hotel, and they did great business. They let me know how happy they were to have so many out-of-state visitors at the hotel, and they look forward to seeing some familiar faces this year!

The festival is a 21+ show, something hardly understable for us here, I noticed this was not mentioned on last year's poster, was it already the case ? who decide this (authorities or the mayor, or ...) and why coudn't it be I don't know 15 or 16+ ?
I believe I did advertise last year's fest as being 21+, but that might not have made it to every poster. In all honesty, I could do an "all ages" show, but at this point, I am still not comfortable with the idea. I have an insurance policy that covers Days Of The Doomed Fest, and it is much cheaper (and safer) to keep the show a 21 and over event. I really don't want to run the risk of minors being caught with alcohol, which could in turn threaten the fest. It's one less thing I have to worry about as promoter. Now, that's not to say I'm not considering opening up the fest to all ages in the future, but for now I'm keeping it at 21.

Mike,  since almost the day after the 1st edition, you're extremely busy to work on the festival, days are still 24hours longs though, do you still have enough time for your family and eventually any leisure or sport practising ? Does your wife sometimes blame you to spend too much time on your musical activities ?
What's that old Y&T song? "25 Hours a Day"! I could use a few of those!!! Yes, the promotion end of this fest does seem never ending, and there are days that I really have to get up and walk away from it for a while. I become so intensely focused on it that my wife at times reminds me there is more to life! I have two awesome boys (4 and 7) who are very active, so my wife and I try to do as much as we can with them in our spare time. School functions and summer sports are very common around my house, as well as WWE style wrestling matches in the living room. And "Mrs. Doom" and I still try to sneak in a date night when we can! All I can say is my wife is extremely supportive, and I don't know many other wives that would put up with as much music oriented stuff as she does. On the other hand, I did take her to see Judas Priest on our first date, so she knew what she was in for!

Now about that Raffle of Doom (who starts to be contagious...!), how did come that idea ? there's many outstanding goodies, did some bands give something spontaneously ? so, you'll present the winner on a special youtube video, can you precise things about that please ?
I was looking for a way to generate funds to offset some of the overhead it takes to pull off Days Of The Doomed Fest. I came up with the raffle idea one night and decided to shoot everyone involved in the fest, past and present, a message to see what their thoughts were on the idea. Within a few days the loot just started rolling in the door. Everyone has been so extremely generous with their donations. It snowballed to the point where even bands who haven't played the fest were sending items to me, like The Wounded Kings and Orchid! I never expected such a huge response, and I thank each band for doing what they did for this raffle. When it comes down to the actual drawing, what I plan on doing is using my webcam to record the event. I just want people to see that no monkey business was involved, and that nothing was fixed. You'll see me dumping all the names into the pot at the same time, and you'll see me pick each name, all continuously. Don't forget, in addition to the drawing for the "mother load", there will also be 4 other drawings for some equally cool and unique items!

Thanx a lot Mike, wish you all the best for this DOTD #2; add anything you feel important that I might have forgotten to speak about...
Well thank YOU so much for the interview! It was a great pleasure! In closing I just want to add that tickets for Days Of The Doomed Fest II are on sale as we speak!
All you need to do is visit, and everything you could possibly need from tickets, time slots, and lodging options is right there at your finger tips! I looking forward to seeing some old friends this June, and hoping to make some new ones!!! Come on out and support the bands and the scene! And one last thing... always be sure to check out the mighty TEMPLE OF PERDITION!!!!! \m/ Hails! \m/

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