Wednesday, May 1, 2013

... DAYS OF THE DOOMED III : in depth INTERVIEW with Mike Smith !!!

Next edition, in less than two months now, will be only its 3rd, but the DAYS OF THE DOOMED FEST is already a Major event in the actual Doom scene, gathering the very finest of American DOOM... Mercyful Mike Smith did once again a titanesque work to provide such an incredible  line-up including Dream Death, Penance, In-Graved, T.G.O.S., Bellezefuzz, Iron Man, Orodruin Earthen Grave, King Giant, Kings Destroy, Pale Divine and so many other ripping bands !  Let's read what he has to say about this exciting edition, a naturally captivating expression...

Hey Mike… The 3rd edition of DOTD Fest will take place in less than 2 months now, I guess there’s always tons of different things to do at the same time during all those months - but in which more precise phase of work are you actually in ?

Hey Stephane! Well, it is without a doubt “crunch time”, so right now, all advertising campaigns are being finalized and put into place. Artwork has been delivered to regional as well as national publications, and posters are being printed. I will also be starting a complete attack on social media sites. This is the point where I like to try and be as visible as possible- in your face if you will!

Just giving a look at the poster of this new edition give chills, not just the names but also the fact that a great part of them have new stuff that just came out (T.G.O.S., IN-GRAVED, DREAM DEATH…) or will come out in between or imminently right after (BEELZEFUZZ, KINGS DESTROY, KING GIANT…) , not forgetting PALE DIVINE, IRON MAN, EARTHEN GRAVE who released new material not so long ago… more than previously, the level of the line-up is really high, I think that in just 2 editions DOTD Fest became a major event in the US doom scene, is it the first benefits from your immense work on the two first editions that start to flourish or did you had to double your efforts to gather so many good bands on this week-end ?

Well, each year I try and regroup a bit and review what worked and what didn’t, then I go from there. So far, it seems I’ve been doing the right things because interest in the fest remains positive, and there is no shortage of bands that would like to take part. What I like to do is try and constantly “up the ante” from year to year; try to hold contests leading up to the fest, the “Raffle of Doom”, and things of that nature to keep people interested. Keep them involved with the fest. That also includes looking for sponsors that are willing to help the fest grow. I am beyond thrilled to be working with Scion A/V this year! It’s not very often that a corporate entity takes such pride in promoting underground acts and metal in general, so hats off to Scion A/V! It is truly a pleasure to be working with them.

How did you deal with DREAM DEATH and PENANCE ? Was your former proposition for both bands or did they propose you a special unexpected historic package ?!

Hahaha! Well, the idea of Penance came about during the scheduling of DOTD Fest II. As a promoter, one of the selfish perks is that you get to pick the bands that you want to see, and I had always wanted to see Penance in one form or another. So I did a tad bit of investigating and the feedback I got at the time wasn’t exactly great, so I let it go. Fast forward to around early October last year and a conversation I was having with Butch Balich. It was actually him that planted the seed for getting me to push for Penance at DOTD Fest III, specifically the “Parallel Corners” line up. At this point Dream Death was already confirmed, so I hit up Rich Freund and Mike Smail about the possibility of Penance performing at the fest. It basically came down to them saying, “If you can get Lee Smith over here, consider it done.” Well, as you can imagine, I got in touch with Lee right away and after a few weeks of discussions and negotiations, the planets lined up and we announced Penance would indeed be taking part in DOTD Fest III. So I have to give credit where credit is due: thanks, Butch! Having Dream Death and Penance on the same bill… I’m still in awe!

I presume that the running order of Saturday’s evening was not something easy to settle between the 3 last bands DREAM DEATH, IN-GRAVED and TGOS… ? Was there some cases of conscience hard to resolve ? Is it generally a hard task to put out a cohesive running-order which can also depend of some bands prerogatives ?

Putting together the running order for DOTD Fest is one of my least favorite things to do in all honesty. In my case, the running order of the “headliners” is fairly easy- they almost fall into place most of the time. Some bands ask for a certain spot ahead of time, and then it’s easy to work around that particular spot, and of course seniority also plays a role. The running order of the late afternoon/early evening bands is a nightmare for me because every one of those bands deserves a killer time slot. A lot of times it comes down to who’s been out on the road, who might have a new album out, and so on. It’s murder on my nerves because I never want to inadvertently “snub” anyone. I do my best, but sometimes I’ll toil over it for days on end!!!

You always give place to smaller bands, which is a great thing of course, this year GRAVE DIRT, MOON CURSE, WHALER and GORGANTHERRON are openers… except maybe the last, those are really obscure names for us Europeans, could you present those future headliners of the years 2020 ?!!!

Every single one of those bands you just mentioned has it in them to become a headliner in coming years. MOON CURSE is a local Milwaukee band that has an incredible buzz surrounding them right now. I really think they are going to take it up a notch very soon, so make sure all of you catch them at the fest this year! GRAVEDIRT is another new band from Milwaukee building great momentum, and Michigan’s WHALER caught me by surprise one night while surfing Facebook. Heavy!!! GORGANTHERRON are definitely on the rise, too! Monumental riffing, and a killer Kathy Reeves video is helping keep them in the public eye.

Beside the musical passion of everyone involved, the thing that comes to mind when thinking about your fest is the brotherhood between all bands, happy to meet each other, happy to see X or Y on stage as a young enthusiast fan… you guys form an incredible family in the northeast US Doom scene, something that I would feel hardly imaginable in Europe, not just because of language differences… such a festival in Europe would bring a lot more people and things would take another dimension, more barriers between people…

I think you hit it on the head with the word “family”. Time and time again I’ve heard people say that doom fests are like “family gatherings” because of the camaraderie between the fans and the bands. This is hardly anything DOTD Fest can take credit for- I’ve simply followed in the footsteps of McCash, Brenner, Hart, Gallo, and Levy, all of whom had established the “family gathering” atmosphere at their respective fests prior to mine. Although I have never been to one, it seems as though fests like Doom Shall Rise do a good job of bringing everyone together in the same fashion.

A great addition to the line-up (that wasn’t planed a few months ago, until they found the band) is SPILLAGE… another family in the family with members from Earthen Grave, Trouble and The Skull, and (almost ?) all good old friends of yours, will this be their 1st gig ?

Hahaha! Yes, all good friends! This will indeed be the debut show for SPILLAGE, and I really think they are going to turn some heads! The material is amazingly killer, and everyone involved is really putting in the time to maximize impact. While mainly Tony Spillman’s band, Spillage has been around since 2002, and thankfully 2013 will finally see the band hit its stride! Bruce Franklin will not only be playing/performing, but he’ll be producing the new album as well. Stay tuned!

Another rare band on stage that you can be proud of is CHOWDER, Josh Hart and John Brenner on the same stage, that’s something very special !

And let’s not forget Ronnie Kalimon! I remember talking to Josh Hart not long before “The Passion Rift” was going to be put out, and I mentioned how killer it would be to have CHOWDER at DOTD Fest III. At the time, it seemed like a bit of a long shot, but one rainy evening I got a text that said nothing more than “We’re in.” Then I got a follow up text of what the live line up for CHOWDER would be and I damn near lost my mind. There is quite the buzz surrounding CHOWDER’s appearance at the fest this year, so I would definitely make the effort to catch their set! Not sure how often this line up of Hart/Brenner/Kalimon may play out, so it’s well worth seeing them at the fest!!!

A little aside, still related to your incredible investment for the scene, Spillage is one of the first bands you recently caught in the roster of the newly-found Mercyful Mike Management and Productions… there’s 2 other bands Divinity Compromised (progressive metal) and Frosthelm (black/thrash)… were you thinking about that for a while or is it bands who asked you for this ? maybe you already naturally helped them and kind of officialized things ? Before being a Doomster, you’re a METALLER, this seems to be confirmed by the various styles of those bands, is the band’s attitude and project as important as their music to your eyes ?

The whole management/production idea had been floating around for a while, but I never really thought much about pursuing it. Outside of Days Of The Doomed Fest, I really only book other shows on occasion, most recently being Toronto’s CAULDRON. I kept getting a nudge from friends here and there about taking the management side of things more seriously, but it really wasn’t until the opportunity to manage SPILLAGE came around that I decided to take a serious look at it. Tony Spillman is my chief assistant in this endeavor, and his help has been invaluable. Since we launched the company, the number of bands inquiring has been nothing short of surprising! There is still a major learning curve for this company, so I am trying to take things at a slow pace- not loading up the roster with every band that comes knocking. DIVINITY COMPROMISED’s Lothar Keller approached me back in late February about handling their management, and things have been working out quite well! Their magnificent debut release “A World Torn” was released back on 3/19, and they have several live shows booked in support of it, including a stop at this year’s Pathfinder Fest. North Dakota’s FROSTHELM also contacted me not long after, and I am currently finishing up booking a late summer tour for them. They will be releasing a new full length soon as well. In regards to the musical styles of the bands I am representing, you are correct in saying that I am a METALLER first and foremost. Doom may be my favorite genre, but I love METAL no matter what, so whether your progressive or blackened thrash, it’s all good to me. The focus and drive that DIVINITY COMPROMISED and FROSTHELM have to take it to the next level is tremendous, and if I can help take them there, I am honored to do so.

The show of IN-GRAVED should be something very special too, their 1st in the States (and only planned for this year at this moment), I guess this is a kind of icing on the cake and very exciting perspective?

Oh man… Having IN-GRAVED at the fest this year is truly special. At the moment, it looks like this could very well be their debut US show as no other dates have been booked. Either way it will be exciting for all in attendance. I actually contacted Victor very early on about possibly bringing PLACE OF SKULLS to DOTD Fest III. It was already publicized that he would be leaving Pentagram, so I thought what a great opportunity to get not only a killer band, but put them back in the spotlight. So upon our first discussion, it was tentatively set that PLACE OF SKULLS would be playing DOTD Fest III. However, after a few more phone call conversations, in became apparent that Victor wanted something truly fresh, and that PLACE OF SKULLS was going to be shelved indefinitely. So literally through talking with Victor and watching the social media posts, IN-GRAVED basically unfolded before my eyes. Very exciting stuff from my point of view! The live lineup of Victor, Jeff “Oly “ Olson, Guy Pinhas, and “Minnesota” Pete Campbell is beyond top-notch; take a look at the YouTube footage from Roadburn and Desertfest! Those guys are firing on all cylinders and I expect to be completely blown away by IN-GRAVED this June. If you haven’t grabbed the new album, it’s a no-brainer. Grab it!

There’s certainly lots of others people to mention but Kathy Reeves is a precious help for you in terms of visual communication and live recordings of the festival sets (with Michael Lindenauer), must be comfortable to count on such competent and dedicated people ?

I have a mental list of quite a few people I am eternally grateful to, and Kathy Reeves is VERY high up on that list! She never ceases to amaze me with the promo ideas she comes up with, and all the footage she captures. I have really never given her any direction to follow when it comes to making DOTD Fest promo videos- she just takes the ball and runs with it. And as you can see from her creations, she scores big every single time. Her work has helped spread the word of the fest more than I could ever have imagined, and I am extremely thankful to have her helping me out. (Kathy- the Ruffles truck will be making a delivery soon… !) And major kudos the Michael Lindenauer (aka Lucifer Burns) as well! His taping throughout the years has not only helped garner attention for fests like mine, but also for the bands involved. Some of the coolest footage on YouTube belongs to Lucifer Burns, and I hope he continues to tape bands when he can. I also have to say that Michael was a source of great advice when DOTD Fest was in the formative stages, and I am thankful to have had Mike to bounce ideas off of!

In Europe, festivals like Roadburn and Heavy Days in Doomtown let more and more place to artists to expose their works in some kind of conceptual decors, is that something you can imagine for your festival or are you limited by lack of space ? Is there a merchandising corner available though ?

I would love to be able to have a bigger platform to present bands on in terms of stage décor. I love how Walter has the band’s logos backlit behind them, or is able to run old movie footage during sets. That kind of stuff to me is cool as hell, but unfortunately, I don’t see that happening at DOTD Fest anytime soon. Space is limited due to the fact that I use a smaller venue than those used in Europe. This is basically just because of the differences in crowd attendance- same old story. I could go on, but that’s an entirely separate conversation. We do have plenty of space for merch, and we keep 3-4 tables set up all weekend so every band performing has a chance to lay out their loot!

What are the most important improvements you’ve worked on concerning the organization for this edition ? Is there anything wrong which happened last year that really affected your personal enjoyment of the event ?

Hahaha! Well, last year I dealt with a change in venue, a change in dates, a change in CITY, and I lost some bands along the way! Take that into consideration and I gotta tell ya I am more than happy with the way DOTD Fest II turned out! Luckily, none of those problems arose in planning DOTD Fest III. The one thing I wanted to really focus on was sponsor support, and I am extremely pleased with how that turned out. As I mentioned earlier, DOTD Fest III will be a Scion A/V sponsored event this year, which is huge. I also will have the good people at playing a major role in the fest, and if all goes well, we will be broadcasting the fest around the world.

A bit of geography for everyone now if you don’t mind ! If you had to transpose your festival in a special corner of the globe with bands from your choice living in the country selected and its bordering neighbours exclusively, what place and which bands would you choose if you had 10 names to point ?

Man… that is a hard question to answer just for the simple fact that there are so many amazing bands throughout Europe. I guess Germany would be a good central location, then we could draw bands from France, Italy, Spain, the UK, even Poland. I’d love to book Serpent Venom and Black Magician, and then obviously Kadavar! April Ethereal would be a killer addition as well!

What’s the particular interest of doing a pre-show on Thursday rather than adding a couple of bands on the 1st day (Friday) which is starting later than day 2 ? I notice that none of the 4 bands playing at this pre-show is really DOOM, is that consciously selected under that canon ?

The Thursday night pre-show was the idea of Jeff Bach, known better by his Infernal Rock Radio name “The Bachness Monster”. He broadcasts on Monday nights for IRR out of Madison, WI, and is huge underground doom supporter. Taking advantage of the fact that so many out of town people arrive in Milwaukee Thursday night, why not treat them to some “warm up” action before the fest kicks into gear? The bands that participate aren’t always straight doom, such as Chicago’s SPYDERBONE who are more traditional heavy metal, but I think that’s just fine. It helps to get the party going no matter what, and like we said earlier, we’re all METALLERS at heart, right? VEGA will rock us, WITCHDEN will doom & roll us, and AQUILONIAN will mesmerize what’s left of us! And to address why Friday starts later than Saturday- it’s to allow people to get out of work and have time to get to the fest without missing too much.

What about this year’s raffle of Doom ? This year you also propose some special deal for people who buy tickets, for example this month they can win the killer new Kings Destroy album… can you present this please ?

This year I’ve been trying to raise some extra funds once again by using The Raffle of Doom. As you may have seen, there are some KILLER items up for grabs, and more come in everyday. On top of that , many bands have been generous enough to include items for month long ticket deals, most recently being KINGS DESTROY, and before them THE GATES OF SLUMBER. Both of these bands gave away their new album just for buying a weekend pass during their special DOTD Fest deal. As we speak, I am working with VENOMOUS MAXIMUS to create a pretty sweet deal for one week in May. KING GIANT also held a contest we tied in with The Walking Dead that worked out really well. I can’t thank these bands enough helping promote the fest. It means more than you know.

What about the kids and family, not growing too fast ? Still have time for everyone or is it hard sometimes to do find the right balance between everything ?

My two boys are growing up at light speed. I wish I could hit the “pause button” once in a while to slow them down! I coach my youngest son’s little league baseball team, and spring training starts tonight, so that will keep us very busy throughout the summer. My oldest son has also taken an interest in golf, so we’ll be going from the ball diamond to the golf course! We all do our best to still make time for one another where it’s just family, and my wife is usually in charge of that. She’s the “equalizer” we all need.

Well Mike, maybe I forgot to ask you about something important, so do not hesitate to add anything you wish, maybe concerning accommodations, local beers, if Mr Bong should bring his weed with him or not, etc…hahaha !!! thanx mate, all the best to you !

I think we covered quite a bit!!! If anyone still needs info on how to make the most of their Days Of The Doomed Fest weekend, look no further than for everything you could possibly need from band schedules, to travel options and hotels. It’s all there! While at the fest, be sure to try one of many local brews and ciders at The Blue Pig! And I’m not sure if Mr. Bong will make it through the door, but Mr. Joint might be able to sneak by! Hahaha!!!

Thanks a TON for allowing me to ramble on, Stephane! It is always a pleasure to discuss all that is doom with you! All the best to you, and hails to TEMPLE OF PERDITION!!!


  1. Mike Smith Rules! "Days Of The Doomed" is truely an awesome event! This one is going to be Insane!!! \m/\m/

    1. In addition to the amazing bands that Mike arranges for in his fests, the people that attend the DOTD events are fantastic. Truly unique group. They are "Family" indeed. Wouldn't miss it for the world.
      See you in the front row.
      K.G. \m/