We talked to Alexi Front, metal head, label owner and the organizer of Scorched Tundra Festival. He gives us the story behind STF, how to nail a good line up and how the metal scene looks like i Chicago.
Why did you create Scorched Tundra Festival?
Scorched Tundra was created last year as another platform for me to promote -while giving the Göteborg metal community easier access to – bands that I consider to be making interesting and innovative metal music. Last year’s bands: MARIONETTE, ZOMBIEKRIG, AS YOU DROWN, AGE OF WOE and ELDRIMNER were all groups that I had worked with in some capacity in the past. For example.AS YOU DROWN and MARIONETTEare bands that I have worked with closely as a manager. AGE OF WOE and ELDRIMNER are bands that I have worked with for digital releases on my Pivotal Rockordingsrecord label. ZOMBIEKRIG is a band I have a close connection with due to Axel Widén’s work in MARIONETTE as vocalist and artistic visionary. After Axel left MARIONETTE our personal friendship continued to grow and to this day he still works closely with me on a number of artistic projects for bands on our label. I felt –and still feel – that the five aforementioned bands created innovative music that also happened to be outside of the perceived “Gothenburg sound”. Furthermore these five bands are good friends and I wanted to enable them all to play on the same bill to facilitate further connections for them to grow together down the line.
For the metal community of Göteborg my objective is to create a festival with a dynamic, exclusive and entertaining, lineup that is affordable. Last year MARIONETTE and ZOMBEKRIG both utilized the projectorSticky Fingers made available for the festival, creating unique visuals that complimented their performances. These were original, unique and exclusive sets that you’ll never see these bands perform again. At 100 SEK (the same price as this years festival) seeing five incredibly talented bands is a value. This year I am offering free Scorched Tundra t-shirts to people that pre-order tickets online or at the venue and happy hour priced drinks for the first hour after doors. Sticky Fingers has been generous in enabling me the freedom to organize the best festival possible and to utilize both stages and all facilities available to give viewers an intimate and exclusive experience.
Tell our readers a bit about why and how you choose the bands that will perform at this years Scorched Tundra?
As was the case last year I chose bands that I thought were making unique music within their respective sub-genres. Furthermore, this lineup and the order of appearance were crafted to showcase the unique elements of each band and to give the show better flow than last year.
My history with ZOMBIEKRIG and ELDRIMNER are already outlined above. The connection with NO HAWAII is worth inclusion here. I first saw NO HAWAII in August 2009 at Sticky Fingers before Snake My Charmscame out. I attended the show with Axel who was singing in MARIONETTE at the time and we were both blown away not only by the bands raw energy on stage but also the seamless integration of 70s progressive rock into a doomy, electronic-laden, crust inspired, soundscape. I kept in touch with the bands guitarist Carlos and eventually had the opportunity to work closely with him when he joined AGE OF WOE.
NO HAWAII opened me up to a world of bands from Hisingen and beyond that come from the punk, hardcore and crust scene(s). The ethos among those bands is vastly different from most metal bands in Sweden. I am impressed by the work ethic and drive of these bands that do underground tours and connect themselves to their audience in such an intimate way. Scorched Tundra is about building bridges and a community for all fans of heavy music, not excluding bands from certain scenes or backgrounds. So my inclusion of NO HAWAII for their reunion show is to broaden the horizons of metal fans in attendance and to expose the band to new ears and eyes.
This year you chose two non-Gothenburg bands, which is a departure from last years festival billing…
That’s correct. SWITCH OPENSis from Stockholm and NONEXIST is scattered around Skåne. I am happy to have them both play at Scorched Tundra this year because they bring with them unique sounds and stories. I first met SWITCH OPENS earlier this year in Stockholm and became a huge fan of their melodic tendencies and ability to forge complex organic soundscapes with each instrument complementing each other effectively. All of the radio play they have received on P3 is absolutely merited and the band will put on a fantastic set this December.
NONEXIST is comprised of former ARCH ENEMY vocalist Johan Liiva and Johan Reinholdz who also shreds with SKYFIRE and ANDROMEDA. Our label released NONEXIST’s second record From My Cold Dead Handsdigitally this winter and the album absolutely slays, fantastic technical thrash informed classic death metal. Scorched Tundra will be the bands first ever performance so attendees can expect material from both the bands first album Deus Deceptor (Century Media, 2002) and From My Cold Hands.
Ultimately I am really happy that I chose two bands from outside of Göteborg to play. I feel as though both bands will continue to do well in Göteborg; Scorched Tundra will be a fantastic introduction for both bands to the local scene. Also, it’s important for a festival to develop, mature and expand its scope over time. Curating this festival taught me the importance of the lineup and order of bands. It’s similar to putting several paintings on a wall, certain aspects of each painting are enhanced or muted depending on which painting it is next to. I have done my best to place all the bands in the slot that will enhance their strengths and hopefully attendees will be appreciative of this extra effort.
What’s the most difficult thing about organizing a festival from over seas?
The greatest difficulty in organizing a festival from overseas is time difference. I am seven hours behind Sweden, so by the time I start making calls or answer mails everyone is heading home from their 9-5 jobs. While I am quite used to this difficulty it does not get easier as I get older. This year I am fortunate to have Sam from All Systems Go! helping me from the start this year. He is very familiar with all the acts that will be playing and has been working closely with me from the spring on getting everything together. Having a good group of people taking meetings for me and helping to square off details on the ground is crucial and a must at this point since I can only be in one place at once.
What are the differences between our local metal scene versus the scene in Chicago? Venue-wise, genre-wise and quality-wise.
In the city of Chicago, where I’ve lived my whole life, the metal scene is small and fragmented. There are nowhere near as many resources available to young up and coming bands in the city of Chicago as there are for bands in Göteborg. There are no study circles or reimbursement for rehearsal spaces and schools do not offer individual music lessons or anything near what the Swedish education system offer youngsters. This ultimately impacts the ability for musicians to find each other early on and create music together. Bands like BORN OF OSIRIS andVEIL OF MAYA are actually from the suburbs, which is different. Because suburbs tend to have larger tax bases than cities schools offer more one on one instruction and funding for music classes. Also, there is not a lot to do in suburbs so naturally bands form and people go to see them and support them early on when it’s most important. In the city local metal shows are always competing with national tours and a plethora of other entertainment options and therefore attendance suffers.
That being said Chicago gets amazing concerts all the time and there’s always an opportunity to see any national tour you’d like. We have several superb venues in Chicago that were built 80-100 years ago that are architecturally gorgeous and have phenomenal sound. In Göteborg there are fewer venues and they tend to be newer. But the scenes are much more cohesive and self-supporting in Gothenburg than in Chicago because of GBG’s unique size and the resources available to musicians at various points in their careers. A band of any size from Gothenburg can get their demo/EP or debut album professionally produced, mixed and mastered by a renown ‘metal’ producer, which is an opportunity most up and coming bands from Chicago do not have.
How did you get into metal?
Before I was into metal I was very interested in grunge and punk music. I enjoyed the pace and ferocity of punk and the expressiveness and musicality of grunge, especially all the subtleties’ and rawness. Early on I got into MEGADETH and METALLICA and quickly moved onto other American metal giants like PANTERAand ANTHRAX.
The defining moments in my evolution in metal were seeing IN FLAMES and DARK TRANQUILLITY live in 2002 and 2003 respectively. I was amazed by the contrast of melody and heaviness that I witnessed at those shows and got hooked ever since. My enjoyment and appreciation for Scandinavian and specifically Swedish metal was enhanced by many trips to Sweden; working closely with bands from Gothenburg on my label and through my management company; and of course by the staff at Metal Haven in Chicago who turned me onto so many fantastic extreme bands early on. So as soon as I saw IN FLAMES and DARKTRANQUILLITY live I was hooked forever.
What do you think of the state of metal in Gothenburg? And worldwide?
Metal is a form of musical expression recognized and practiced worldwide. Itcaptures ones imagination, relaying a variety of basic sentiments and human emotions that transcend culture, language and borders. Heavy music and metal at a worldwide level are growing rapidly; there are more bands out there than ever vying to be heard. The recording industry still has no idea of how to deal with the amount of music out there and how to effectively commoditize recorded music. Even though I own my record company and have also been affected by the drop in sales of records I am happy to see the music industry go through these growing pains. My hope is that bands continue to take advantage of the resources available to them through the internet and find new and unique ways to organize themselves, shows, and the release of their recorded music. Bigger record companies will continue to move slow and cautiously, and no one should wait for them to innovate or change the game. It’s time for bands to take control of themselves and their destinies.
The last piece of advice is important for bands from Göteborg to recognize. It’s no longer necessary to have a manager or label to release your material. In fact, most independent labels are so strapped for cash and short in resources and manpower that ‘being signed’ is nowhere near as beneficial as it used to be. I encourage metal bands from Gothenburg to learn from the hardcore, crust and punk scenes and do everything yourselves: build a new network of venues, promoters, bands and passionate people that is self-supporting.
Favorite band at the moment?
Right now I have been listening to tons of KVELERTAK. I saw them play with CONVERGE a few weeks ago and was blown away by the bands live performance and sound. They employee three guitarists effectively and sound absolutely massive. I was very pleased with the bands performance and their ability to sound like they do on the record while tearing it up on stage.
Bringing this conversation back to Scorched Tundra, what will people who attend the festival see that they may never see again?
ZOMBIEKRIG will be performing with El Guapo for the first time in years. SWITCH OPENS will put on a devastating and energetic set of tracks you’ll never hear together again in Göteborg. As mentioned above this is a NO HAWAII reunion show and they will have several local musicians and artists contributing to their set. Expect strong visuals from all these bands who will play on the top floor. Carlos has already spoken about the band playing songs from Snake My Charms as well as a lot of new, never before heard material. ELDRIMNER is preparing a powerful set and the evening will begin with the first ever performance from NONEXIST. So to everyone I advise buying your ticket in advance so you can get your free Scorched Tundra t-shirt, get in early to enjoy happy hour priced drinks and see a unique combination of bands that will never share the stage together again.