Essential Sounds: 21.05.21

May 22, 2021

This week’s playlist is a double whammy – it’s practically two playlists in one. We couldn’t resist adding Neptunian Maximalism‘s Solar Drone Ceremony in there. So you can get stuck into some of the music that we’ve uncovered in recent weeks, and then float away on another plane for fifty two minutes, thirty eight seconds… where you go after that is up to you!

If you want to seek out the tracks elsewhere, here’s the info you’ll need:

IosonouncaneJabal (RCA Numero Uno)

Otay:oniiFrom Me II to Me (WV Sorcerer Productions)

Clipping.Wriggle (Sub Pop)

GostCoven (Century Media)

Victory Over The SunNowherer (Coarse Air Records)

Sunrot1312 (Self-Release)

Filth is EternalZED (Church Road Records)

Colonial WoundI (New Morality Zine)

MastodonForged By Neron (Loma Vista Recordings)

PanopticonKnow Hope (Bindrune Recordings)

PsychonautThe Great Realisation (Pelagic Records)

Neptunian MaximalismSolar Drone Ceremony (I, Voidhanger Records)

Essential Sounds: 07.05.21

May 7, 2021

This week’s playlist is a corker, if we do say so ourselves! How about that HEALTH x NIN collab to get your weekend off to a great start?!

Don’t forget that today is Bandcamp Friday, which means that more of what you spend today on the platform will end up in the pockets of the bands and labels that you love. So, it’s a great day to go shopping.

If you want to seek out the tracks elsewhere, here’s the info you’ll need:

Health x Nine Inch NailsIsn’t Everyone (Loma Vista Recordings)

Cold CavePrayer from Nowhere (Heartworm Press)

Perturbator Excess (Blood Music)

Backxwash x Ada RookI Lie Here Burried With My Rings And My Dress (Ugly Hag Records)

ORYXMisery (Translation Loss Records)

AmenraDe Evenmens (Relapse Records)

Bossk ft. Johannes PerssonMenhir (Deathwish Inc)

At The GatesSpectre of Extinction (Century Media)

An Autumn For Crippled ChildrenSplendour Unnoticed (Prosthetic Records)

YautjaThe Spectacle (Relapse Records)

Dawn Ray’dWild Fire, Pt.I (Prosthetic Records)

Dawn Ray’dWild Fire, Pt.II (Prosthetic Records)

Jo Quail, MorleyAngus Dei (Robot Needs Home)

UnreqvitedAutumn & Everly (Prophecy Productions)

Violet ColdBe Like Magic (Self-Release)

MJ GuiderViñales (Modemain)

Roadburn Redux: Aftermovie and Stats

May 5, 2021

We thought you might like a look back on Roadburn Redux, so alongside this years aftermovie (different to any we’ve done before) we thought we’d share some stats.

We had 78,937 unique visitors to the site whilst it was online, which resulted in 247,872 views on the 100+ videos that we had uploaded to the site. There were also over 22,000 plays on the embedded Soundcloud content and over 7000 of you read the articles we put online too.
3975 of you created an account – to chat, like and comment throughout the weekend.

We ensured that content was free to view, so that finances wouldn’t be a barrier to participating in this special event – however we did have a donation option on the site. Over 2000 people donated – for which were are extremely grateful. In total €56,143.49 was raised via donations – which will go some way towards covering the cost of the extraordinary production and ensure that we can continue to put on boundary-pushing festivals into the future. The average was €26.96 – but one Roadburner donated an incredible €500! Every dollar, pound, and euro that was donated is extremely appreciated – no matter how big or small the contribution.

We had people watching from 132 countries14,000+ people from the US, 12,000+ from The Netherlands, 8000+ from Germany, 6000+ from France and 5000+ from the UK. Hopefully amongst those numbers are a few of you who are newly converted Roadburners!

And if you added up all the time spent watching Roadburn Redux content from all around the globe, it’d come to 5 years, 188 days, 31 minutes and 58 seconds. Time spent wisely, we think!

It goes without saying – but we’ll say it anyway – that we’re extremely grateful to everyone who participated in Roadburn Redux, and to everyone who made it possible. We hope that next April Roadburn will take place in person, to once again create something very special – together.

Special thanks to: Fonds Podiumkunsten, Gemeente Tilburg, Provincie Noord Brabant, Ticket To Tilburg and Brewery Bavaria.

Essential Sounds: 30.04.21

April 30, 2021

We’re working our way back to reality from Roadburn Redux, waiting for the world to open up for physical shows and festivals. Still might have to wait a little, but we hope you enjoy this week’s weird and wonderful playlist.

If you want to seek out the tracks elsewhere, here’s the info you’ll need:

Crippled Black PhoenixPainful Reminder (Season of Mist)

At The GatesSpectre of Extinction (Century Media)

Domination CampaignDeath Before Dishonour (Prosthetic Records)

DéhàBlackness in May (Burning World Records)

ShortparisMoscow Speaking (Universal Music)

A Love Moment for the EndBlacklight Chameleon (Nutriot)

Metropolitan JamHeave Blood & Die (Fysisks Format)

Derya Yıldırım & Grup ŞimşekAy Dili Dili (Bongo Joe)

The Lords of AltamontLiving with the Squares (Heavy Psych Sounds)

Bobby BeauSoleilSwamp Gas (Self-Release)

Nun Gun, Michael SaluThe Spectre (Algiers Recordings / Witty Books)

PostcardsHome is so Sad (T3 Records)

Zeresh, Davide BorghiAir From Afar (Toten Schwan Records)

V.V.I.A., In Atlas, Venus VolcanismAté (Self-Release / Gateway Music)

Essential Sounds: 23.04.21

April 23, 2021

And just like that, we’re back to reality – which does have its upsides too given that we’ve just put together a new playlist for you. Several of the tracks that we premiered last weekend are starting to make it out into the world too!

If you want to seek out the tracks elsewhere, here’s the info you’ll need:

Nicole DollangangerWhispering Glades (Self-Release) (header image)

MidwifeChristina’s World (The Flenser)

Lustmord x Karin ParkTwin Flames (Pelagic Records)

Big ‡ BraveWited. Still and All… (Southern Lord)

Hante. – Blank Love (Synth Religion)

S U R V I V ERedline – From Road 96 (Digixart)

VR SEXDog Complex (Dais Records)

Jess and the Ancient OnesLove Zombi (Svart Records)

CROWNNeverland (Pelagic Records)

NoctuleEvenaar (Church Road Records)

An Autumn For Crippled ChildrenMelancholia (Prosthetic Records)

Full of HellAmber More – Live (Self-Release)

Body VoidPale Man (Prosthetic Records)

Year of no LightRéalgar (Pelagic Records)

A Heartfelt Thank You

April 21, 2021

We have to start by thanking you for coming on this journey with us… we say it a lot but this past year or so has been a wild ride in so many ways, and this edition of Roadburn was more of the same. There’s likely no emotion that between us we haven’t felt, and we’re grateful to have had your company on this particular rollercoaster.

To say we’re overwhelmed by the response to Roadburn Redux would be an understatement. Whilst we had hopes and dreams for how it would turn out, we almost didn’t dare to have any expectations or to say those dreams out loud. We didn’t know how it would feel to experience a version of Roadburn without an in-person connection, we didn’t know who would show up, who would stick around – it was all an unknown.

When we set out to put together Roadburn Redux, we knew that we would have to follow our own path – as we always do – but also ignore what we have learned over many years of putting on events; this was something different. All the parameters of Roadburn organisation that we were familiar with had shifted, or vanished entirely. We’re grateful to the support of some wonderful labels and booking agents who were willing to take a chance on our ideas. So whilst there was a tremendous amount of time, care, love and attention that went into Roadburn Redux, to some extent, we were still winging it when it was time to go live.

It wouldn’t have been possible at all if it weren’t for the 013 venue’s belief in what we had already established with Roadburn (that’s us, and you by the way) and what the future is capable of holding for us. The production team adapted to the necessities of their jobs changing essentially overnight and accommodated every restriction and requirement that was needed to allow bands to perform live.

And what performances we were granted! The production values were second to none, and the results were truly spellbinding! We couldn’t be more proud of the high level output that was made possible by our production team working alongside the Livewall team. And of course the bands – who had to overcome surreal circumstances to deliver their art – were beyond amazing, every single day.

As for the pre-recorded sets and audio/video premieres, we were absolutely blown away by the effort and commitment that bands put into crafting, recording and delivering assets. From the newest bands that we hope we’ve helped uncover, right through to the established artists that we have cherished and celebrated for years. Sometimes things came together at the last possible moment, and sometimes against the odds, but we got there in the end.

There would have been no festival at all without the work and dedication of the people we have just mentioned, but it became evident over the last few days that the true spirit of Roadburn is only conjured up when we all experience the music we love – together. Of course, it was strange to realise that this was happening, or even possible, in a digital realm – but it was so apparent within minutes of the website going live that something special was happening.

As ever, it will take a while for Roadburn to sink in, for us to process it and figure out where we go from here. We’re somewhat stunned that we pulled it off ourselves, but dare we say that we’ve taken Roadburn to a new level? We’ve learned – through our shared sense of community above all else – that just about anything is possible, and that you’re coming along for the ride, wherever it may take us.

It is our most sincere wish that next year we’re together in person – April 21-24, 2022. Until then, we hope you have some special memories from Roadburn Redux to hold on to.

Walter, Becky, the whole Roadburn team & the 013 crew

Roadburn Redux wouldn’t have been possible without the support and help from: Fonds Podiumkunsten, Gemeente Tilburg, Provincie Noord Brabant, Ticket To Tilburg and Brewery Bavaria.

Roadburn Deep Dives: Emma Ruth Rundle

Roadburn 2017, Sunday 23 April, 013 Green Room

Redefining heaviness. If you’ve had any sort of interaction with the world of Roadburn in the past few years, you have surely come across this notion at some point. Just like everything else in art, culture and human innovation, heavy music is changing, evolving, becoming richer and gaining new meanings. As a festival that strives to give a home to groundbreaking and unusual artists – the “freaks in the corner”, as Steve Von Till from Neurosis so wonderfully puts it – it’s almost a mission statement for Roadburn to not only keep up with what it means for music to be “heavy” but actively contribute to that expansion and that discovery of new territories. And if that might seem like a complex goal, or even a rather vague ethos to follow, sometimes everything comes together and is crystallised in a single moment; something you can point at and just go, “yeah, that’s it”.

That’s precisely what happened when one lonely – and, as it turns out, rather terrified – woman stepped up to the Green Room stage on the last day of Roadburn 2017. Emma Ruth Rundle didn’t know it at the time, but she was about to make Roadburn history.

José Carlos Santos
Paul Verhagen (Pics)

“It was such a turning point for the festival,” says Becky Laverty, one of the main faces of Roadburn, as the festival’s Press & Communications manager, who was instrumental in getting Emma to perform this show of shows. “It helped us to open up some doors and explore what heaviness meant. That show summed up really well that ethos of redefining heaviness. That one woman, with no accompaniment, was able to create this unique atmosphere, so dense and overwhelming. It was absolutely a heavy performance, but not necessarily the kind of thing that people associate with heavy music. It immediately became one of the shows that we’ve referenced the most when booking shows. What is heaviness, and in what ways can you define it? That’s a question we ask ourselves all the time, and this show is an important part of the reply to that.”

For all the show’s impact on Roadburn and on Emma herself – we’ll get to that in a minute – it’s funny to realise, when talking to the parties involved, how different it all could have been, if not for a few random details that, with seemingly cosmic will, worked together to create the conditions for that powerful performance. Like, for example, why she stepped up to the stage all alone.

“Before Roadburn, I was on a really long tour, which started with Deafheaven in the United States, and I basically never got out of the van,” Emma says. “I kept going with Jaye Jayle, who were touring. When I got the Roadburn offer, I decided to book a European tour around it as a lot of American bands do, to make it more affordable. Because I couldn’t afford to take my own band, the idea was to use Jaye Jayle as my backing band, and have them open the shows during the tour – that would give them the opportunity to go to Europe too.”

When things didn’t work out with Jaye Jayles‘ drummer, Emma brought in the drummer from her own US-based backing band, and the group only had a few days to rehearse for the tour. Then they all went to Europe, without ever having played a show together.

“We had a day, as a long soundcheck, before a show somewhere, to play as a band. That was it. I’m saying this, and I realise that I would never do any of this now, when I look back on it,” she laughs. “We made it through that night’s show. But was it good? I don’t know! But it didn’t feel right to me. The whole purpose of this trip was to be at Roadburn, so I reached out to Walter and Becky asking them if a solo show was a possibility they could consider.

“If I had the opportunity to present it as a band, and to represent well the album I had made, which was the reason why I was invited, I would have chosen to do that. But I felt that it wasn’t good, it wasn’t presentable, and the last thing I wanted to do was to be humiliated at Roadburn. I was finally going there, it was such an honour to be there as an artist, at that magical place… So I eventually made the choice at the last minute to do it alone.

“I hadn’t played a solo show for some time because I had been touring with my US band,” Emma continues. “I hadn’t played in that format since I did solo opening slots for other bands, with reimagined versions of what the albums were, but at least that’s something I did do for a long time. I felt I had enough experience and I felt strong enough to do it like that again.”

To add to this sense of a-woman-against-the-world loneliness, another unfortunate event unfolded: “This was the same year that Chelsea Wolfe, King Woman and True Widow played,” Becky recalls. “There is actually a photo with Chelsea, Nicole, Kristina and Caro from Oathbreaker – this group of great women who played Roadburn, and Emma wasn’t in it because she was only there on the Sunday. I remember a conversation with her when she told me she was really looking forward to coming here and seeing all these women who were playing that year and with whom she’s friends with, and none of them were there anymore when she arrived and she was all on her own!”

But Emma never backed down. She was prepared. Scared, but prepared. “I knew that it was going to be terrifying,” she says. “All of the emotions leading up to it, I would describe them as terror and fear. You know that nightmare where people are standing naked in front of their class or something? That was what this whole Roadburn thing was like to me. I hadn’t performed in front of metal audiences in a long time either, but I do have a lot of experience with people heckling, talking to each other, not listening, even dumping beer on my stuff. I was ready for all that. I was ready to go into battle. I wanted to have this accomplishment of performing no matter what. I had this idea that if I had a band, people would have more respect for it and listen. And if they didn’t, at least we’d be louder than them.”

Fortunately Roadburners came through and proved themselves up to the situation. The audience in the Green Room on that magical evening was in itself a sanctuary, it lifted rather than brought down the brave performer singing her heart out to them.

“The Green Room was absolutely crammed!” Becky recalls, still in some awe of the atmosphere that was built in there. “Emma looked a bit nervous when she first came out, but then she totally owned the stage. It was such a powerful performance. Although I believe it would also have been incredible if she had played with a full band, it was really a stark performance, which felt right because that album, Marked For Death, is quite stark as well. She looked so strong and powerful, she dominated in such a calm and quiet way. Afterwards I spoke to her backstage and I told her this, and she said it had been one of the shows where she’d been the most terrified. But it didn’t come through at all.”

It did not, but Emma was indeed: “I’m super disorganised, and Becky and everyone from the staff really helped me. I was like a little bird and they picked me up and put me back up on my nest. Once I got to the Green Room – and I’m reliving the fear right now! – as soon as the show started, I realised people were silent,” Emma says quietly, her own voice hushing as if still in acknowledgement of the incredible response she got on the occasion. “It was a very powerful and moving experience for me. I think to this day it still remains my favourite show that I’ve ever played.

“I’ve never felt the respect that I felt from the Roadburn community and the audience, it really blew my mind,” Emma says. “It changed my life, honestly. I felt that was a pivotal moment in my career as a performer. Nothing has ever been the same for me since that moment. It was the first time that I felt… maybe this isn’t placed in the right way, because people should get their sense of self-worth from other places, but at Roadburn I felt respect as a musician for the first time in a way that I had never felt before in my life: I felt like I had a place.

“It gave me a strength that I’ve taken with me forever since then. That I have the right to do what I’m doing, that I have a place to have a voice, that I shouldn’t feel ashamed for myself, for what I’m saying and what I’m singing.”

All of this somehow makes missing Emma’s curation-that-never-was in 2020 even more heartbreaking, but there are also good things to take away from that. “It’s such a shame her curation never came to fruition,” Becky laments. “But I do feel that our relationship with her is not over and there is much more to come. That was just the beginning. It’s also to do with how heavy music has evolved. I don’t think Emma would be covered in the likes of Metal Hammer ten or fifteen years ago, for example, and for that matter nor do I necessarily think she would have made much sense at Roadburn then, even. The boundaries of heavy music are shifting, and she is a prime example of how they are evolving.”

Emma herself says of the pandemic-interrupted Roadburn 2020: “It’s sad. It’s crushing. We all did the work, it was there. It would have been so cool. It was such an honour, and such a highlight of my career as a musician, working with Walter and with Becky and everyone involved, making the decisions, talking to the bands, getting to know some of them, getting a feel for this amazing community and how it was all coming together in this moment.” But she also comes away with the positives and with the hope that doesn’t fade: “I don’t feel like everything was lost for me though, I still took away an amazing experience. I do feel horrible for everyone who didn’t get to see the shows, I’m sad that I didn’t get to see the shows! And for all the bands that didn’t make it there, too. But this is what it is now. We’re still here, we didn’t lose our lives and a lot of people did, that’s how I have to look at it. I really look forward to when I can get back to Tilburg and to Roadburn again.”

We’re all counting seconds over here, dear Emma.

Roadburn Deep Dives: Thou

Roadburn 2019, Saturday 13 April, Ladybird Skatepark

“Oh God, that one,” Roadburn artistic director Walter sighs and then laughs wearily, just at the mere mention of Thou’s legendary Misfits covers show at the Ladybird Skatepark during their residency in 2019. That reaction alone already tells you everything about the odyssey that took place behind-the-scenes of what has become one of the most surprising and talked-about moments in Roadburn history.

When Thou were confirmed as Roadburn’s 2019 Artists In Residence they agreed that they would play four distinctive sets over the course of the festival. Only three of these shows were included in the schedule – the time and location of the fourth remained under wraps. Despite that (or maybe because of it?) it became one of the most unforgettable shows in Roadburn’s 20-plus years. So, let’s take this from the very beginning…

José Carlos Santos
Teddie Taylor (pics)

“From the first moment I talked to Bryan about Thou being artist in residence for Roadburn, the idea of having a secret show was already there,” Walter reveals. “I told them about the options: I mentioned there was a skate park, and the Hall of Fame room.” Thou vocalist Bryan Funck confirms: “We had decided pretty early on that it would be really cool to do a covers show, and we wanted to keep it secret, and also do it at the smallest place possible. We didn’t think so many people would be that excited about it, so we thought we’d just create something a little more intimate, just cram a bunch of people into a small space.”

Thou had originally thought of the Cul de Sac for a venue, but the festival wasn’t using it that year. The smallest room available was the Hall Of Fame; but it wasn’t quite right for what the band had in mind.

“The room itself is small, but the stage is quite wide,” Bryan explains. “It’s a nice, cool space, but in terms of what we were going for, especially with that set, it was a bit sterile and it just wasn’t going to work. The skate park stayed on our radar, mostly because it felt like a punk thing, something that’d be fun to do. We even imagined that it would be great to have people skating at the same time and everyone going nuts!”

Fortunately, it didn’t get that far, as security staff had enough on their plates as it was, but the journey towards skate park acceptance was to be a long and arduous one for everyone involved. “We had different opinions about how popular this was going to be – we thought that there would be people there, sure, but not that many,” says Thou guitarist Andy Gibbs, laughing now at how colossally wrong he was in that prediction. “If there were other things happening at the same time, which there were, we thought it’d just be this niche thing. We weren’t sure if word would spread, and how fast, so for us it’d just be like a really small show with half a dozen people. But Walter told us right from the beginning that no, there’d be a shitload of people and it’d be difficult to manage. I don’t think I really understood that until right before it happened. We had thought people would just stand there and stare blankly at us like they usually do,” he laughs.

As we all know by now, it was far beyond a ‘niche thing’. Anyone who was at the festival that afternoon will remember the feverish anticipation when people started to realise that the secret show was due to take place.

“Until a couple of days before the festival, things were still undecided on both ends,” Walter recalls. “The Hall of Fame was easier, there was a stage, it was a proper venue, but there was a certain magic about doing it at a skate park. The real fun started when we announced the running order and the times. People started going crazy because the fourth show wasn’t announced, they kept asking where and when it would be, and we would just shrug and say, ‘We don’t know!’ But it was really obvious from the schedule, the spot was right there – the Hall of Fame ended at 11pm that evening! What did you think was going to happen afterwards?”

When Thou arrived in Tilburg at the beginning of the festival, they went to check out the two venues. And while they weren’t particularly excited about the Hall of Fame, they figured it could work. But over the weekend there were a couple of other impromptu shows at the skate park – Thou saw the potential and wanted to make it work.

“On Saturday morning, anticipation was at a high,” Walter remembers. “The band had decided and asked for the skate park, and production went ballistic. ‘How can we have hundreds of people in there, it’s not doable!’ they told me. People at the festival were, at the same time, getting super anxious, to the point that I couldn’t even walk around anymore without someone coming up to me and asking me about it every time! I remember even Nergal, who was at the festival, at one point came up to me and asked me to tell him where it was going to be! And I just kept saying ‘I don’t know!’, and it was really the truth, even if no one believed it!”

If you’re not too familiar with the proceedings of putting shows together, you might be wondering what all the fuss is all about: it’s just a room but with ramps, right? Walter explains: “The problem is that the skate park is not a venue for shows. For the little punk shows we did there, we just threw together a small DIY PA, and there were a few dozen people watching, and that was fine. But the production team was adamant that it wouldn’t be able to accommodate something of this size and scope.”

That seemed to seal it; but there was one superhero about to rush in and save the day. “After several serious conversations with all parts involved, it was Frens, the 013 general manager, who came to the rescue,” Walter laughs. “He told me, ‘Walter, we need to do it DIY style! This is punk rock and we’re going to do it at the skate park, we have to!’ I told him that production didn’t want to do it, so he went and talked to them, and just told them matter-of-factly that it had to happen because the band was on the way and it was confirmed with them already. Which it wasn’t! But he overruled everything anyway. This happened around 10pm, about an hour from the show. We had an impromptu meeting with security, and we also still had to call the general manager of the skate park to tell him what we were going to do, and he kind of gave us the go ahead, he was just like, I don’t know, sort it out with the production!”

If you have met him at the festival, you’ll know that Walter in panic mode is usually, despite the seriousness of the situations, a harbinger for special things to happen. And here he was, going berserk once more, right before yet another legendary happening.

“I rushed to Thou’s dressing room, and all the band were there with Emma Ruth Rundle. I told them, ‘Skate park is happening! What amps do you need?’ Everyone was super excited and started throwing around ideas: I want a model T, I want that one in the corner backstage, this and that. Five minutes later, I’m backstage with a lorry and all the amps on the street being loaded on it to be carried to the skate park. Of course, that’s when some people saw it happening, and started to catch on. We set it all up with the recommendations of the security staff, who were super helpful, because we still had to measure doors and all kinds of things like that: we still didn’t know exactly how many people we could fit inside without running security risks, which we obviously weren’t going to do.”

All in all, it was one of those situations where it was better to ask for forgiveness than permission. “The day after the show, we had to have a real talk with production, because they were a bit angry,” Walter says sheepishly but with a devilish grin. “They were not amused about mine or Frens’ actions. I know I was very undecided in the days leading up to it, it was all ‘Hall of Fame! Skate park! No, Hall of Fame! No, skate park!’ all the way, then I reassured them on Saturday that we wouldn’t do the skate park, and then at 10pm I’m all like, ‘SKATE PARK, YEAH!’ I get why they were mad.”

Fortunately, anyone who was there will surely be unanimous in considering that it was all worth it. The first thing Bryan told the audience before they started playing was, “So look, we’re gonna have a lot of fun, or we’re going to look like a bunch of fucking dipshits. You gotta pick. Usually we look like dipshits, so I’m thinking we’ll try to have something new tonight, and have fun.” And fun they had…

“The amount of people there was actually less exciting to me than the actual response to it, that’s what made it so memorable for me,” Bryan says. “People were so into it, and having so much fun! For as little as we practised for that set, and probably for as poorly as we played, it turned out incredibly well. It was easily one of the most fun shows we ever had. That set is now the set by which I judge all Thou sets by. It’s actually become a sort of completely unrealistic thing to live up to, but I can’t help it. After having experienced it, now I know it can be like this. So why can’t it be like this all the time? It sort of ruined our normal shows for me!”

For the festival, it was an equally momentous occasion. “It was a defining Roadburn moment,” Walter states. “As awesome as the big shows are, as much as we are known for our production values, as much as the commissioned pieces are an essential part of everything… sometimes, it all comes down to stuff like this. All these bands started out in garages, in basements, in skate parks. This sort of thing is where our hearts lie, it’s where we all come from. Seeing a band in a garage or in a damp basement, it’s in our blood. And it all came together on this show. The band, the fans, the staff, everyone in that room came from that same place. This is the underground that everyone fell in love with years ago, at the very beginning of our individual journey. The expression in people’s faces, the smiles, the joy, the excitement… I’ll never forget it.”

Also, in more practical terms, it had an effect that is still to be measured: “A venue was born, too,” Walter says. “The requests we had for bands wanting to play the skate park in the 2020 edition that didn’t happen was insane. It’s actually being rebuilt now, so we don’t know how it’ll look or even if we’ll ever be able to use it again, but we’ll see.”

It’s interesting to look back now on such an important part of both the festival and the band’s history, and to think about how any small detail might have completely changed it. For instance, Andy reveals that it wasn’t always a clear choice to have Misfits as the theme of the covers show.

“Mitch [Wells, bassist] actually wanted to do Deftones,” Andy says. “I think when we first talked about it, Walter thought we’d do Nirvana, that’s why he suggested it in the first place,” adds Bryan. “Which makes sense: we do a million Nirvana covers, so that’s what people would expect us to do. But for us it was like, let’s just have fun with it. Being a crazy show, and at a place where people weren’t expecting, it all came out of us not wanting to do just the same old thing that everyone thought we would.”

Andy agrees: “That was the whole appeal. I don’t think anyone would peg us for Misfits fans, and to be honest, none of us are really huge Misfits fans! Mitch was really pushing for Deftones, but we pushed back a bit on that, because no one’s gonna go crazy over a bunch of Deftones songs: it’s not energetic enough.”

Perhaps even more shockingly, Bryan quips: “I wanted to do Metallica!”

“That would have been great!” Andy agrees. “But the songs are so complicated: there was no way we could have gotten that together in time, we didn’t have a ton of time to practise for this.”

And you know what? Thou and Roadburn aren’t done playing tricks on you guys. “I loved all the secrecy about it, that’s the kind of shit I love,” Bryan says. “If we ever come back to Roadburn, I’d love to not even be on the bill, and just show up and do a bunch of really fun and weird stuff and have a great time with it. Just surprise people!”

Andy picks up on this: “Maybe we can play on the other side of town. In the lobby of the hotel, like that Nine Inch Nails marketing campaign: we’d leave cryptic notes in bathrooms all over Tilburg. That would be sick.”

Sit tight: who knows what Thou will have in store for us next…

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Roadburn Deep Dives: Neurosis 30th Anniversary

Roadburn 2016, Saturday 16 April 16th & Sunday 17 April, 013 Main Stage

The evolution of Roadburn has been quite a gradual thing. From the early days of paying tribute to the forefathers of the stoner, psych and doom scenes (Blue Cheer and Sabbath will always be in Walter’s heart!), through to the expansive, forward thinking, genre-defying festival we have before us today – it’s been a wild ride. Somewhere in there, around the mid ’00s – which is coincidentally when Neurosis made their Roadburn debut – Roadburn started to explore the outer reaches of heavy music, relishing uncovering whatever the underground had to offer.

Neurosis and their 2007 headlining show proved to be pivotal in the way heavy music was presented at Roadburn. And as the festival evolved over the following years, so too did the band, culminating in two special 30th anniversary shows in 2016. These shows highlighted a decade of synergy and growth for both parties. They served as a second marker in the gradual transformation of the festival, and a significant impetus as it sought to further redefine heaviness.

In this series of Roadburn Deep Dives, we naturally picked – a complete no-brainer if there ever was one – the Neurosis 30th Anniversary shows at Roadburn 2016 as one of the most momentous and memorable occasions we have ever witnessed at the festival. But it’s impossible to look at that admittedly crucial moment without realising how much of it was simply the logical outcome of that profound relationship established a decade earlier.

José Carlos Santos
Paul Verhagen (pics)

“Everything dates back to the 2007 edition,” says Roadburn’s artistic director Walter / Roadburn, the heart and soul of the festival, already with a hint of emotion in his voice. “Neurosis hadn’t been in Europe for a while, and they were quite hard to book. Yvonne Mclean, who worked for Roadburn at the time, was friends with Steve Von Till’s then-wife, with whom she talked to try to reach the band about the possibility of playing the festival. I had met Andreas Kohl from Exile On Mainstream a couple of years before, and he had worked with Neurot Recordings – he also vouched for Roadburn. Those connections were a big help in trying to pass the message of what the festival and the venue were like, and why we wanted them as headliners back in 2007. They eventually agreed, and we were able to announce them: that was an incredibly important moment.”

As if to metaphorically pinch themselves, and make sure that Neurosis really existed and would bring their unique brand of heaviness to Roadburn, Walter recalls that he and his close collaborator at the time, Jurgen van der Brand, went to London to watch them play at The Forum, a few months before Roadburn. “The festival was already sold out by then,” Walter remembers. “Andreas was at the show too, so we went there, we saw the whole show and we were absolutely in awe. There was such a buzz around the band, and there were a lot of people from abroad there – we even bumped into our friend Michiel Eiknaar, who sadly passed away in 2019, and a couple of other people from Tilburg.”

After several years where Neurosis rarely played live, this buzz was more than justified. Their shows were the stuff of legend, and Neurosis were just about the hottest band in the underground at this time. It was an enormous coup by Roadburn to secure them for the 2007 edition. But it wasn’t easy.

“I remember they had very peculiar backline and tech specs, and everybody told us they were a somewhat difficult band in that aspect,” Walter recalls. “But the 013 knew it was very special to have them over, so they did their very best to fulfil their technical rider. We really wanted to make sure that everything was done perfectly for them. That happened, and I think they were very pleased with how the Roadburn and 013 staff treated them. I think they realised that we took them very seriously as a band, and that we had done everything to accommodate them and to make sure they could play their very best show.”

When asked about those first contacts with the festival, guitarist/vocalist Steve Von Till laughs and says, “My memories of Roadburn all blend together!” Nevertheless, the important things did stick. And Walter is right – they were impressed.

“What I remember about 2007, although some of the details are hazy, is that Roadburn immediately felt different from any other festival we had been invited to,” Steve says. “It felt just like where we were coming from: more DIY, more underground appreciation… Not only that, but more intimate too. It wasn’t trying to be some giant thing in a grassy field. It was in a proper club, with good rooms, amazing gear, friendly and very professional staff, and a great collection of really well-curated bands. So many bands that I wanted to see were also playing, and I think every other band felt the same. As a musician, you would be watching a band you like, standing next to someone from a band you like. Any lines between band and audience – and staff – become quite blurry at Roadburn.”

It was clearly a match made in heaven, so as the relationship progressed, it quickly went from friendship to deep love. “They were happy with how things went, so we kept in touch,” Walter says. “When we started to work with curators in 2008, with David Tibet our first, it was clear to us that Neurosis would be one of our first choices to curate, so we decided to do just that for 2009. I was given the opportunity to go to San Francisco, and fly to Northern Idaho to Steve’s place. I spent a couple of days there with him, and we talked a lot about all their plans and ideas. Beyond The Pale took place at Roadburn 2009 with a lot of Neurosis-related projects, and it was a very special year.”

Steve also recalls that meeting fondly. “It was a great honour to be asked to curate,” he says. “We had toyed with the idea of putting out our own music series in the early 2000s, with our Beyond The Pale festival in San Francisco. What we found was that we really loved the idea of choosing a wide variety of artists in different genres for the same reason that we found a home at Roadburn – different styles of music that share a kinship because of its outsider and truly original nature. Its emotional content. And to be invited to do that was great. When Walter stayed with us here to discuss the details, we drove around, showed him some mountain scenery, some lake scenery, we had some great hangout time, some great discussions. When we’re given the opportunity to dream, we dream pretty big. And while we can never cater to our exact dreams and wishes, I think we got pretty close to it. We had a great, unique line-up that year.”

Marriage duly consummated, it was just a question of fanning the flames of passion, and that much was done throughout the years, where barely a Roadburn went by without a Neurosis-related project on the bill. “We’d always invite Steve and Scott’s projects whenever possible,” Walter says, “and in 2015 I got the call from their booking agent and European tour manager Ansgar Glade, telling me they wanted to do the 30th Anniversary shows at Roadburn because of this bond that we developed over the years.” Walter beams with pride at the memory. And we should all count ourselves lucky, because these shows might never have happened.

“We actually resisted the idea for quite a while,” Steve quips. Really? “Yeah. We don’t really enjoy looking backwards, and we don’t necessarily feel inspired by what was inspiring us when we were 19 or 20 years old. Our real main celebration of our 30 years was the creation of Fires Within Fires. On our actual anniversary, which was December 2015, instead of worrying about a show, we spent it in the studio, recording and mixing that new record. But eventually we came to the conclusion that yeah, we should do at least just a few local shows. That of course blossomed out of control and turned into three nights in San Francisco. It was an incredible few days, and we hadn’t thought about taking it anywhere else. But, once again, eventually we thought that, maybe, while we’re doing this one time thing of looking backwards, maybe we should take it to Europe.”

Neurosis did two nights in London, and then went to Tilburg for their 30th anniversary performances at Roadburn.

“It was the perfect vibe to conclude that whole celebratory time in our career,” Steve says. “We might not do that again. It was very tough to go back and relearn stuff from so long ago. Artistically we didn’t even know if those songs belonged in the same set together! But being at Roadburn felt like being among family, and we thought that if there was one place where we could pull that off, it would be there.” As it turns out, playing songs from three decades ago isn’t an easy feat.

“I try to not be in my mind when we’re actually playing,” Steve reasons. “But because we were playing things that were less rehearsed and that felt less natural – I mean, it doesn’t feel natural to play those songs anymore, let’s be honest. Every cell in your body regenerates every seven years or so, so we’ve regenerated several times as humans since we were able to play that fast. I’d say it’s still uncomfortable, but we kind of embraced it for what it was. A rare celebration: out of character for us, yes, but a rare treat, so it still felt like a special time.”

“Everything else around it too, not just the two sets,” Steve adds, “being able to play a solo set in the Het Patronaat… Man, talk about being nervous, being there all by myself in that great room packed with people! It forced me to grow and perform well in front of so many folks. I remember singing with Converge too, the song we did together with Chelsea Wolfe, that was fantastic as well. That whole weekend was just day after day of excitement, nervousness and good feelings.”

What better way to put an exclamation mark on Roadburn v2.0, right? “I do look at these shows as really the culmination of a decade of friendship and artistic kinship, of something that started back in 2006,” Walter says. Steve confirms this with a wide smile: “It absolutely is a friendship,” he offers. “Walter is the face of Roadburn, he is a dear friend, and a great, kind, creative and inspired human being. We love him, and we know how much of his heart and soul is in all of the festival. It all stems from him, but I also have to mention all the other people who make the festival: there’s a whole, huge staff of folks at the 013, the people in town, everyone putting together the magazines, the websites, the promotion, the behind the scenes work. It’s really impressive, and to know that’s happening with good people and with good friends, is great.

“We still feel just like we felt on that first time we were there,” Steve continues, “that finally there was an international festival that was like a home. It’s grassroots, it reflects our DIY punk rock aesthetic, and our love for psychedelic, trippy, heavy music. It’s where the good stuff always is.”

For that to keep being true, its evolution has to continue. Which is why, as Walter insists, Neurosis2016 performances were “also a kind of closure: we knew that this was the epitome of everything that Roadburn was about from 1999 to 2016. Celebrating the 30 years of Neurosis at Roadburn encapsulated everything the festival had been about through those years. Everything came together at those shows – we were honouring Neurosis by giving them the platform and the best possible conditions to do them, but at the same time they were honouring us as well, acknowledging us as the festival where they had been allowed to grow over the years too. Their growth was the growth of the festival too. In a way, the new Roadburn that we are developing now really started after that pivotal point: in 2017, we started to do a few things differently.”

All the while, never forgetting about the past either, and the good things that brought us all to where we are today. “Neurosis also paved the way for that format, that plan, of multiple shows – to give the headliners time and space to celebrate their careers,” Walter says. “That was the case for Sleep and for Godspeed You! Black Emperor, too. When you have the opportunity to have a headliner that has been around for such a long time, and that has had an influence as deep as these bands, that helped shape the festival itself and all other bands playing there, why not do this? That was something we decided after the Neurosis shows in 2016: that’s another way in which they were so influential.”

More than any other, the relationship between Neurosis and Roadburn represented the way in which the festival became the gathering point for one great big community, made up of all the very different and very wonderful people who live their lives by the sway of heavy music. As wise Steve puts it, in a way that really sums it all up, “Roadburn gave us all a home.”

Roadburn Deep Dives - Wolves In The Throne Room

Roadburn 2008, Saturday 19 April, 013 Green Room

It happened 13 years ago, but for those of us who were lucky enough to have been there, the first Wolves In The Throne Room appearance at Roadburn remains absolutely seared into our memories. Rarely has a band made such an impact, especially a rather young and inexperienced band (at the time), and at a festival that wasn’t exactly known to host the genre they mostly inhabit. It was a converging of unlikely circumstances that forever changed both artist and event.

“That was such a pivotal show for Roadburn,” says Walter, the festival’s artistic director, also still in awe of that mythical performance all these years later. “It totally opened our doors for the more black metal side of things: the more ‘organic’ kind of black metal, as it was often called at the time. That show single-handedly completely paved the way for that sort of thing in the following years of the festival, and it’s obvious how important that kind of music became at Roadburn.”

Of course, for pivotal moments to occur, the audacity to take risks also has to be there. How was the decision to feature an artist that, for all intents and purposes, didn’t really seem to fit the festival’s orientation at that time? Walter ventures that Wolves In The Throne Room’s Two Hunters album made quite a fuss in the underground, so there was a lot of talk about them, even in Roadburn circles. But you get the feeling that, like some of the best decisions made by Roadburn, it was really a gut thing on the part of Walter. Wolves made sense for Roadburn on a primal level, as if they had mutual ancient ancestors and were connected by blood without even knowing it. And the plunge was taken by both parts without hesitation.

“We were so green at that point, and so deeply punk and underground in our orientation, that we didn’t know anything about the festival,” laughs WITTR drummer Aaron Weaver. “Just the concept of going to Europe and playing festivals was like going to outer space: it felt like uncharted territory to us. But it also felt like something special and important. It was our first fly-in, our first one-off show at a festival. Nowadays, we know what to expect and it’s part of what we do, but at that time it was an alien experience. At the same time, though, as soon as we got there, we immediately felt at home.”

“It was Andreas Kohl from Exile On Mainstream who knew the guys and confirmed how good the band was live, and we trusted him,” Walter remembers. “We asked him to talk to them and see if they’d be interested in playing Roadburn. I think in a way for them it was also a breakthrough in Europe. The festival broke new ground that year, and WITTR were doing the same for black metal: everything came together in that single show. It was obvious for us that they were a Roadburn band, even if, at the same time, we were still very much rooted in stoner, doom and post-rock.”

This acceptance was felt by the band, and created an instant connection that endures to this day. “It was so welcoming, even to a bunch of complete outsiders like we were,” Aaron offers. “What has been created there by Walter and everyone else, the Roadburn community, is so special, and unique, and family-oriented. In the best sense of the word, it has a true cult spirit, in that everyone there is spinning in the same wavelength, and tapped into the same source of energy and of spirituality. There’s a similar vision. Everyone dreams the same sort of dreams. I almost want to call it a medicine lodge. Cultures always have these sorts of secret societies, where people who are in some way united spiritually come together to get into it, get weird. We immediately felt that Roadburn was a spot where we were understood, despite all of our weirdness.”

Maybe even because of their weirdness. After all, Steve Von Till has endearingly described the Roadburn community, be they bands, fans or staff, as the “freaks in the corner”.

“I think we also felt that something was forming, perhaps even more clearly because of that difference in style between us and the other bands on the bill that year,” reasons Aaron. “It was a formative time for Wolves In The Throne Room and also for Roadburn – obviously in the following years the festival has expanded beyond any kind of genre: it’s now something much bigger than an event attached to any genre or style.”

Of course, none of these good vibes would have mattered much if the show wasn’t a gigantic thunderstorm of unforgettably epic proportions, but that’s exactly what the band delivered. You can still witness it for yourself on the Live At Roadburn album which ensued – it was one of the first in this series – or on several quality videos of the event that still populate the internet. Aaron confesses that he rewatched a couple of these videos before our chat, and even he was impressed.

“Tight is not really our thing, but I was struck by how wild it looked,” he says in awe. “It’s still like that, but I think that at that time our band was really tapped into a really wild and out of control energy. That’s something I noticed, and I think that’s what got to the people who watched it as well: that the music is constantly on the edge of falling apart. It’s like we’re all physically pushed to a breaking point, with the harshness and the physicality of the playing, and that’s right there on display in those videos. It’s that spot right before everything shatters into pieces that sounds good. That’s not the usual metallic approach, metal is usually more methodical, there’s more headroom, but what we were doing, and I think we still do, there’s no headroom at all. It’s just pushed right up to the ceiling.”

Walter remembers a similar feeling, and the lingering effects of it: “I remember the excitement in the air about that show, people were talking about it so much afterwards. When it was over and people were coming out, I was outside and I felt it: it was palpable, the excitement coming from that room. It was noticeable something had happened. It’s a landmark that changed everything for us. After that show, we started to book a lot more experimental, heavier bands for Roadburn. We dived straight into the black metal world, and later on we explored the genre even more, like with the Icelandic scene. That show was the starting point for Roadburn to embrace much more extreme music, from black to death metal, and other genres: it all started there. It inspired us to keep diving into those worlds and cherry pick all the bands we thought would be suitable for the festival.”

Wolves In The Throne Room would return a couple of times more to Roadburn after 2008, and hopefully will still chalk up a few more appearances in the future. It’s another case of a relationship that was formed and of two entities who still continue to grow together.

“Roadburn feels like a weird alternate dimension,” Aaron says with a laugh. “Every time we’ve been there since, the feeling is similar. Although I will say that as we became more seasoned, it also became easier to be fully present, maybe notice more what’s going on, instead of being in that state of barely holding it together, barely knowing your way to the stage, which is how we were back in 2008.” Fortunately, their music still remains, as it should be, right on the edge of being uncontrollable. Let’s keep it that way.