Old Grave Fest (powered by Romanian Thrash Metal Club)
One of the best underground metal indoor festivals is the Romanian “Old Grave Fest” from Bucharest, organized in the first part of October every year by RTMC. We have the chance to talk with 2 members from this insane company, please welcome Cristina & Traian, put some early Slayer records on the turntable, bang your head, drink some beer and enjoy this fine chat!
In 2016 you’re celebrating the 5th year of Romanian Thrash Metal Club. Can you give some background on how the Old Grave Fest music festival came about, and when you started?
Cristina: Well yes, officially it started 5 years ago, but we started discussing it I think 2 years before it got out. How it came about? We wanted to see other bands than what we were usually getting.
Traian: Old Grave Fest started as the RTMF ( Romanian Thrash Metal Fest ) but soon we had to rebrand for some very prosaic reason: despite the fact that the work of our group included from day one a wide stylistic stretched from proto heavy metal to black metal , you can not expect that any lad to run around and do some research about the club when he’s facing a fest poster having Manilla Road or Azarath on it, but being called Bla Thrash Metal Bla. We decided to go for a name without direct reference to a specific genre but to one that resonates with all others. It was not easy and I don’t think I want the rest of the world to know how we came up that name !! Hahahaha!!!!
“It’s not business, it’s just personal” this is your motto, please explain!
Cristina: Easy, we got fed up of just getting shows with the same bands that were touring, or just have the same old festivals where everything goes. I’m not blaming promoters who do that, clearly they’re in for the money so they need to cover as much ground as possible for a bigger attendance.
Traian: We never did a show, a merch fest/fair, the yearly festival without having to back it up once again with money from our pockets or the best case scenario to break even. So you tell me how is this a business or better yet how doing this for 5 more years isn’t personal?
Why did you found the Romanian Thrash Metal Club? What was the main purpose? How do you see your creature after 5 years and please write some details about the anniversary party which was in couple of days ago.
Cristina: As stated above it started out as a necessity in our opinion. The underground needed something else, it needed fresh bands, and it also needed some of the old ones too that never got to our country. I’m talking about a niche, the one we’ve been exploring for the past 5 years. Funny to see that once we’ve set things in motion others started to see this niche as an opportunity too. I’m happy to see other promoters have started walking down this path too, but if it’s not a loyal competition then things might go south quite easily for all of us. Just today I read about our good friends Coro and Dan from Axa Valaha Productions & Ribcage Booking that they’ve cancelled their November to Dismember Metal Fest. I’m sad to see that it has come to this. Just like I’m pissed off to see how big festival around Europe are killing small independent festival, killing the spirit and what metal is about. But that’s a topic I won’t get in to many details. How I see it? As I’ve always said about it: it’s my baby and I fucking love it! Met tons of cool people by doing this and I hope we’ll continue for many years to come. The anniversary party was awesome. We had our closest friends with us, from the performing bands to the our friends in the audience. We wanted to make it with bigger names, but unfortunately some shitty promoter came up short. But all in all it was great!!!
Traian: I remember the early days of the club when everyone’s favorite question of all was: but why do that? Are there so many thrash bands or thrash metal fans in Romania that an organization is needed to deal with it? Every time I heard that I was stunned and to be honest I still have that reaction as I write this now. It wasn’t the case. Back then we didn’t have a single thrash metal band and they, the fans and the webzines when they’d ask me I’d give the same answer: no, on the contrary. But then they’d ask: why do it then?!?!Eventually I got tired of answering this in every little detail and just focused all of our efforts on our motto as described in the previous question.
The 5 years anniversary party? Hehe. It was super cool. After the last band (NadimaC - Serbia) all I remember is that I slept on a car parked in front of Fabrica ( the venue ), I headbanged about 5 measures on a Running Wild track (Rapid Foray ftw!) in Private Hell (located 3 km away) and I woke up the next morning in the house of friends who have hosted me (5 km). I think I can summarize everything in a film that would get a maximum of 5 seconds.
How could I be a member of RTMC, what should I do to get a membership? I should go to Slayer Church every Sunday, or I should know all the guitar riffs from the first 3 Exodus records?
Cristina: First of all go to http://www.rtmc.ro/docs/manifest-rtmc.pdf or just approach one of us on Facebook to get the general idea. Go to Slayer Church every Sunday … not absolutely necessary but definitely a great start hahahahaha!!!! You need to be into old school, support the events, do the attributed tasks and that’s about it.
Traian: First you have to be either an old school enthusiast or to have a strong desire for martyrdom. You'll miss a good part of a festival driving next band from the hotel to the club, or the airport, guarding the rear entrance of venue or selling official club merch. And it only costs you the equivalent of €100 / year.
To start off, could you give us a short summary of 2015 Old Grave Fest?
Cristina: 2015 … exhausting but in the best possible way. Each year had its share of wonderful memories and this one was no exception. It’s hard to summarize it … You just have to experience it for yourself and make up your own mind about it.
Traian: From my point of view this was the most glued together lineup that we’ve ever had but I prefer heavy metal in the future to be better represented and I think we corrected that as you can see in the current poster. What can I say about throughout the festival? Between running from backstage to the official of merch stand and access to the club everything I did make time for a few beers with friends from Turbocharged, Morbid Carnage and Violentor which btw killed it live, for a drink, two, three glasses of Jim Beam with Vittorio from Baphomet's Blood who literally got the audience to climb the walls, and give my soul in front of the stage for Destroyer 666 and Agressor. I tried to catch a little of each band and broadly I succeeded. The impeccable sound at Old Grav Fest is always delivered by the team at Green Sound Team with whom we worked with for years and this year was no exception: live performances from bands starting with young beginners from Deathrattle and ending with veterans already mentioned, Agressor, angry Nekromantheon about I was told because after the first 15 minutes I had to go back to the merch stand where I took a nap because everyone was in front of the scene, the dark grim atmosphere from Dead Congregation who are not even my cup of tea but still managed to make me feel like the walls are closing in on me little by little and, not least, the explosion of blasts, riffs and blood which is Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult. Btw, literally blood to get things straight. In two words or more, I would like more fests like this, at least once per month but not more because I have a certain age you know ;).
What are the changes and improvements for this year?
Cristina: I don’t think there are any major changes or improvements, but we sure try to to make it better and better, to deliver a new solid edition of the festival.
Traian: First of all we assumed the risks of an eclectic festival, where you can see bands from heavy metal to classic black crust punk and bestial death metal without providing any privileges to just a specific genre. I think I'm right to say that except the extreme appearance, each band on the poster represents a gender or a hybrid, that including stuff like exotic bands, as it is the case of Vigilance - Blackened heavy metal or the particular kind of death metal from Diskord. To fully understand what I’m talking about I can imagine you thinking why am I telling you about the risks we’re taking when you’ve asked about changes and improvements and again it makes me feel like explaining you about that … it’s not business it’s just personal.
If I'm not wrong Old Grave Fest is/was the first international underground metal festival for blackened-death THRASH music in Romania.
Cristina: Is it?!?! If that’s the case then … fuck yeah!!! Hahahaha This wasn’t our purpose … it’s to continuously promote metal in its traditional form. Ok, ok we love our hybrids: death – thrash, blackened thrash and so on, but we never touch the core. Never! Nothing that ends in core. No disrespect to anyone, we just promote different bands. We’re actually good friends with the HC community in Bucharest and we help each other out.
Traian: In my case is easy … you don’t order Chinese food in China. You just order food. My Big 4 in thrash is: Slayer, Kreator, Sodom and Dark Angel for instance. But I also love death metal, the more blasphemic the better ( huge fan of first Deicide and Morbid Angel albums ), and black metal as close as possible to the first wave. Now with these being said … is there any question about why Old Grave Fest gathers these sort of bands? Hahahaha
Whose idea was to locate this festival indoor in the beginning of Autumn? Are you planning to do a Summer edition an open-air version of OGF?
Cristina: Well you never go big on your first try unless you have lots of money and don’t know what to do with them. I for one, love the smaller indoor shows better than the big outdoor festivals. Outdoor fests have their appeal of course and it’s always lots of fun, but for me it gets exhausting to run around like a headless chicken to see a band. Not to mention that most of the times you have have to chose to see a band instead of other. So indoor works best especially if you have a solid line-up. A summer edition would be great, but I don’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon for a lot of reasons. Summer is already swamped with festivals in Europe, big ones and smaller ones. We’re not ready do take that step and it’s ok.
Traian: This one is simple. Both the original name of RTMF, and period have been proposed by the only one of us with experience at that time, namely Coro from Axa Valaha. Without finding a fault in this and actually giving credit to Coro’s vision, currently it doesn’t seem like a good idea anymore, considering that meanwhile this period of the year has become the favorite of all fests in the capital. However, we strive to keep October as one of the accessories that gives personality to our Fest. As for indoor, I think it's the natural solution for a fest with less than 2,000 subscribers.
The fest is now an internationally recognized phenomenon. Do you have any idea how many countries are represented by the people attending? Do you remember how long it took the first festival to be sold out? From year to year I see lots of familiar faces from abroad which is really great thing, OGF looks like a “metal family reunion”, what do you think?
Cristina: WOW! Those are some big words … we started getting some exposure abroad indeed but it is NOT because we get published in magazines, webzines or stuff like that, although we did get mentioned in a few. Most of the promo it is done by the bands who played at our fest or single shows, and by us the club members, spreading flyers to every festival we attended. It is really nice to get to Netherlands Death Fest and have people telling you they know about your fest. Can’t say the same about our country. Went to my hometown with some flyers a while back and got asked “ so in what country is this festival held?!?! “. That’s kinda sad, but … we’re working on it. The festival was never sold out though … maybe this year? Hehehe
As far as foreigners … there are so many people and groups to mention, people who got the word out about Old Grave Fest so I’ll stop and mention a few of them: our brothers in Bulgaria from Metal Force HMC crew and the Metal Hangar 18, we have the Italians represented by Alessio of Enturian Legion Promotion, our Serbian friends from Infest, Soile Siirtola of extreMMetal Sweden. And then you have surprises coming from regular metalheads coming from Peru, Australia, the US, Germany, Sweden, Poland, Estonia, England, Netherlands, Spain just to name where I can remember sending out festival tickets.
Traian: What can I say? You weren’t cheap on words. On one hand I’m flattered, but on the other if your goal is to pull a recipe for the festival of how we did it … I can’t give it to you for the simple reason that we don’t have it. We do have a modus operandi, but only to ensure a reasonable balance between what we like, what we want to see, what we consider it would make a difference in the Romanian scene and lastly that we can actually afford to put this all in play. Everything else you’re saying is just a perfect combo of individual work and relationships we grew in time. Alessio and Ricca from Violentor / Enturian Legion, for instance, could be considered more like hosts at our festival, and with the guys from our twin club Metal Force HMC Bulgaria I feel more connected than with the majority of people I’ve known throughout 25 years and with whom I occasionally have a beer. So again about that recipe … I think it would be best to say that instead of a magic recipe this is more about the people who got together in this and that beyond their taste in music, which only brings people together, it’s the chemistry between us that does the trick.
As the organizer, can you share what your duties involve and how early you start planning? Once the festival begins, are you able to enjoy it or are you too busy managing logistics?
Cristina: Our duties? It’s a team effort!!!! Basically we do everything and we do mean everything, except for the sound or lights on stage hahaha. This year’s edition is all set up and we’ve started working for 2017 a few weeks ago. Since we’re on a tight budget we have to plan out very carefully. It’s hard when you have the financial restriction, but it can be done. Enjoy the fest? Yes and no … bits and pieces most of the time, but we make sure everyone sees at least a band for the entire performance at the festival. There are plenty of stuff to do, bands coming in, others going back to hotel, their merch, the rest of the attendees with their merch stands, the food catering, the booze and so on.
Traian: I think I sort of answered this in the other questions above. It’s a lot of running around, but we still find time to enjoy ourselves briefly, have a few drinks ( or more hahaha ), crack some jokes and do our tasks.
The lineup for Old Grave Fest 2016 is any underground metal music fan’s dream. How do you go about inviting artists? Do you start with a wish list? Do certain bands contact you expressing their desire?Are there any bands that you targeted that, for some reason, you weren’t able to get for the festival?
Cristina: Like I said before … it starts with a wishlist, a reasonable one and we work our way from there. We contact the bands and start negotiating and hope for the best hahaha. Of course we’ve been turned down, either for financial reasons, or the band just started recording, or a band member lives half way across the globe and so on. But that doesn’t stop us trying again the next year and the next and the next. We’re a bunch of persistent motherfuckers.
Traian: It’s kinda hard to lay out everything, especially since besides the tech stuff ( although we handle a small part of that too ), catering and booze, we do everything ourselves, from booking bands, to ground transport to and from the airport, to and from the hotel and venue. As for the bands selection, it’s a mix between personal preferences, the will to help and promote young bands which we like, but also nice surprises from bands we didn’t know but wrote they want to be a part of Old Grave Fest. Of course there are also bands or promoters who act like robots and just apply without taking notice that this is a very specific festival and that if we had Implode and Eufobya on our bill, that was just because they were on tour with Entombed A.D. or fucking Onslaught.
There’s a balance between new and older bands on the bill, i.e., with highly influential veterans such as Manilla Road, Agressor, Cancer, Archgoat, Varathron, Destroyer 666, etc sharing the bill with relative newcomers such as Dead Congregation, Bolzer, KHTHONIIK CERVIIKS et al. Was this by design?
Cristina: Of course! Nothing is by chance! Except for Destroyer 666 we were the first to bring those bands in Romania. We want to promote bands that we consider they’re worth the exposure, that’s why you’ll see both old and new on our bill. We brought Bolzer 2 years ago before anyone in Romania knew about them and now they’re coming back to Romania for the 3rd time? I’d say we know our shit. Khthoniik Cerviiks will make a big fuss also, but that’s just my opinion.
Traian: I think the best answer to this would be what our colleague Liviu said: our festival line-up is or at least tries to be made of veterans, die hards and bleeding edge. And yes, it’s a wanted thing! ;)
What advice would you give somebody who has never been to OGF?
Cristina: Hmmm … Make sure you rest because you’re in for the kill. Liver and entire body will get punished. In the kind words of Impaled Nazarene … PUNISHMENT IS ABSOLUTE! ( that’s what I’m listening right now Kneel before your master and obey … And when I say obey you will suck it! )
Traian: Come to Old Grave Fest as you’d go Live Evil, only with less money in your pockets, because at some point not having any more money for beer can save you from some really embarrassing moments. hahahaha
You’ve been there from the start. Can you share a few favorite memories? Insane stories, some nice back-ground info any “secrets” will be appreciated! I think you have some nice stories with Destroyer 666, KK delivering insane situations always heh.
Cristina: Yes, there are always stories to tell and jokes to make and I think there are too many to remember them all. Hahahaha the mighty KK and those pesky cocksuckers at metalsucks. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve met KK 3 times and every time it was all good fun. The only funny story I’m gonna share is that I’ve tried not once, not twice but three times to get KK to wear a girly OLD GRAVE FEST t-shirt. And no it wasn’t his fault … it was MINE. 3 times in a row I brought him a girlie t-shirt being convinced each time that I grabbed a male one. Hahahaha!!! But since you mentioned him … I thought it was really cool to get a text message from him 3 days after the fest thanking us for the great work and that they had a great time. For me that’s all that matters, it means that noobs like us can carry the heavy load and pull a cool event. Other fun stories? Sorting out Agressor’s merch stand and trying to figure out where to place the Agressor thongs. Yes … THONGS! That was brill. Or … Manilla Road arriving at the venue and asking us are you sure we’re supposed to play this fest? It’s full of death metal bands!!! And to answer them: yes, it was deliberate!!! Having Mark Shelton, LG Petrov thanking you for the work you’re doing in the underground is priceless. Still keeping in touch with the bands years after is also priceless. So yeah … it feels like a big party done by fans for the fans as it is in fact.
Traian: Pff!!! I can’t believe you want a recap of 4 years of festivals!!!! Still, I’d mention:
- Alessio ( Violentor ) who on the way from the airport to the venue asked for the car to pull over to barf because the night before he had drank with the guys from Master.
- the fact that after the 3rd edition all the club members were counting their bruises and bite marks done by Vandal of Infest
- Eros from Extirpation who told me he wants me to be his dad
- the super cute Yvonne from Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult seated with her hands in her lap telling us about what it is to be a nurse.
-and least but not last our colleague Dan ( DSM ) wearing Agressor’s merch thong on his face
Is there any single band or performance this year that you can’t wait to see?
Cristina: Ideally it would be to see them all, but I’ll see how lucky I’ll be on those nights. I can’t pick just one, really … I can’t! Just like I could never make a top 10 or top 20 whatever bands/albums you like. I can’t categorize bands like that especially the ones I truly love.
Traian: Of course! I’ve wanted to see Archgoat since the first day I’ve heard of them, and if I’d have to pick another one from the lower part of the bill, it would be without hesitation Vigilance.
Could you give us a few words now about your line-up; what are you happiest about? Are there any bands that you are particularly proud of obtaining this year? If yes, which ones?
Cristina: We’re proud about the entire line-up. It just fits like a glove and if it fits, you must wear it. As I said I’m more than pleased with all of them, but I think I’d have to say Pentacle. Death metal legends, you don’t see them too often on bills and I’m quite happy we pulled this one off.
Traian: I’ve been listening to Varathron since His Majesty at the Swamp and yes, I’m terribly proud we got them on the bill. It’s the only reasonable alternative to the absolute shit that turned into lately Rotting Christ.
Do the tickets get sold quickly? How many so far?
Cristina: You know damn well I’ve danced around the subject this whole interview … I’m not gonna slip the tongue now at the end. Let’s just say that it’s going and we’re ok and happy with the outcome. No, I’m not gonna do what all, well most, promoters do and pump numbers just to make it look good. We all know how the scene is here in Romania and the number of attendees ... Who the fuck are you trying to impress?!?!
Traian: Well, if you add my age with Cristina’s and dived that by the number of editions we’ve had till present day, substract the square root and multiply it with Pi square you’d probably get a result that has absolutely nothing to do with what you just asked. Hahahahahahahaha
Any necessary info about the festival, news, final words, etc!
Cristina: Tickets are still available online, but as well at the venue. If you need any additional info contact us on Facebook chat and we’ll answer right away. Except for the festival days of course.
Traian: Get a fucking vaper with you. The motherfuckers have us smoking the proper cigarettes outside.
Many thanks for your time!
Cristina: Thank YOU for keeping your interest high in our fest and club and we’ll see you down in the pit!
Traian: Maybe you’ll decide to drop that Morbosidad t-shirt :D (Dream on baby-editor!)
By Mirgilus, September 2016