Roadburn 2017, Saturday 22 April, 013 Main Stage

Don’t get us wrong – we’ll never knock wishlists. Wishlists have become a daily part of Roadburn, and it’s as exciting for us all to critique each others’ as it is to write them ourselves. We all have our own wishlists, too: this writer once handed Roadburn’s artistic director Walter a list, divided by categories, with 157 names – ranging from the absolutely impossible (like Darkthrone), to bands with 10 followers on Facebook.

The main thing that has to be managed when you make a wishlist – as well as stopping them from becoming their ugly cousin, a ‘demands list’ – is expectation. The booking process is often a long, bumpy and winding road, which more often than not leads to an insurmountable dead end, especially when dealing with inactive or ‘unlikely’ bands. We could write a book on the reasons why that band you really, really think would be so obvious to have at Roadburn hasn’t made it there yet. You have to learn to accept and deal with all kinds of situations. Getting your favourite band to play Roadburn can be a process that lasts for years until, in the best case scenario, it finally happens.

José Carlos Santos
Paul Verhagen (pics)

Sometimes, the best course of action is to just do nothing, as Walter learned when trying to get Patrick Walker’s old band Warning to reunite and play their classic album Watching from a Distance at Roadburn. We all wept with joy and raw emotion when the likes of Footprints and Bridges finally echoed through the 013 Main Stage in 2017, where Warning seemed like they’d always belonged. It was one of the most profoundly touching shows this writer has ever seen, at Roadburn or anywhere else. But it took an honest conversation in London to get the ball, well, not quite rolling, and then a relatively long wait to make it happen.

“For me, the biggest thing that I took from that Warning show is that you have to be patient with people,” Walter reasons. “Sometimes it’s no use pressuring an artist into doing something when you want them to do something. Some of our most special shows have taken years of preparation to put together, and sometimes that preparation just involves waiting for the right moment. With Patrick Walker and Warning, that’s exactly how it worked. He was very honest with me – he told me he would want to do it, he told me that it would happen at some point, but he asked me not to pressure him and not to put him on the spot. And that’s exactly what I did. I let it rest, I didn’t push it, and a couple of years after that first conversation he finally brought it up again and we were able to make it happen.”

That first conversation took place, at a Primordial show in London. “There is a photograph of the show where this conversation happened, that Becky [Roadburn’s publicist] took,” Patrick Walker recalls with a laugh. “I had been rehearsing for the weekend with 40 Watt Sun, and a friend told me to come down because Becky and Walter would be there. So I went down after rehearsal, and I spoke to Walter about the Warning thing. I don’t remember much about it, to be honest! But I do think that was probably the first time we brought it up. I was in no hurry to do it because we were rehearsing for the second 40 Watt Sun at the time, so my priorities were very much elsewhere. I needed a while to focus on other things, because I knew it would take a little time to get Warning back together.”

Even if it was going to take some time, it was clear to everyone involved that the first return of Warning would have to take place at Roadburn. “I knew I would tour it,” Patrick says, “but I had no interest or any thoughts about debuting the show anywhere else. I had two experiences of Roadburn prior to that with 40 Watt Sun, so I knew what kind of festival it was, and it would have been that or nothing. I just can’t think of another festival where it would have felt like that…” He makes a long pause to collect his thoughts.

“Roadburn is a festival where everyone is made to feel of equal importance,” he continues. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re the headlining band or if you’re playing in the Green Room at 3pm on Friday afternoon; everyone is made to feel as if they’re of real importance to the success of the festival, that they are of the same value to the audiences. And every audience at every show proves this. The enthusiasm is the same, and everyone is always very respectful of the bands. It’s also a much more leftfield festival than any other which specialises in heavy music. I just couldn’t imagine doing it anywhere else. I had no obligations to do the show there or anything, but Walter just treated me so well throughout the years and my experiences playing there were so good, that there wasn’t any question.”

The Warning chapter seems to be fully closed now, after the shows, reissues, and everything else that went on for a couple of years following that impactful reunion at Roadburn 2017. It was an important closure that the band needed to have. When Patrick asked Walter for a little wait before planning the reunion, he wasn’t pushing things into an indefinite hiatus – he knew it would have to happen.

“The thing with Warning is, we were one of those bands cursed with achieving a kind of cult success posthumously,” Patrick chuckles. “We got a kind of reputation after we split up, that we could never enjoy. I was eager to get that band and that music behind me while I was doing it, to move on to other things, but it did reach a point where I remember thinking, ‘I can imagine doing that again, I would quite like to do those songs again, with a proper, full band, in front of audiences now.’ Also, I wanted to play the album as it was recorded, to use two guitars and everything. There were things on the record which, in hindsight, I regarded as bad judgments on my part. While I couldn’t go back and re-record the album, I could certainly repair them in a live situation. I just wanted to do it, I wanted to travel with Marcus [Hatfield, bassist] again because he’s one of my best friends. After the hard work of doing the second 40 Watt Sun record, it felt right. And now I feel like I’ve done that record justice. It was good to be in touch with a lot of people whom that music has touched. It’s done now.”

The fact that Warning is a done chapter now isn’t any kind of dramatic gesture by Patrick. He’s just not the kind of artist to have different projects and outputs. “I’ve always said that it doesn’t matter what band I’m playing in, what band name I’m playing under. The music will always be the same,” Patrick explains. “Whatever music I’m writing and performing is always part of the same artistic approach. It’s not a question of stopping one thing and then going back and doing another. It’s a timeline that just keeps going, no matter what the name is. People associate Warning with me doing ‘doom metal’, but that’s just because that’s the record I did in 2006. Those shows merely revisited that period of my life. The record I made four or five years after that was still a ‘heavy’ record, but it was already different. It was one step away from that. And the next one was another step forward. If I would do music under the Warning name now – which I wouldn’t – it wouldn’t sound any different from what I’m doing now. I only ever make the music that comes naturally, that comes out of me.”

As for the Warning show itself at Roadburn 2017, the preparation wasn’t exactly peaceful, as Patrick reveals: “It was quite stressful, because the biggest thing that happened prior to the show was that Christian [Leitch], who was the drummer for 40 Watt Sun at the time and who had been the drummer in the last incarnation of Warning, he pulled out about four or five days before Christmas in 2016, so that was less than four months before the show.”

“I thought, fuck,” Patrick continues. “What am I going to do? I spoke to Becky, and she recommended Andrew Prestidge, who I didn’t know, but I listened to some of his recordings and watched some of his videos. I liked it, so I contacted him, explained the situation, which was a bit awkward – ‘Oh, we have a show on the Main Stage at Roadburn in three-and-a-half months, and we’ll be touring after that…'” Patrick laughs. “He had a listen to the album and he said he’d do it, and we only started rehearsing around the end of January, but everything ended up working very well. We still needed to do some rehearsing right before the show, because although I had been performing rather consistently, Marcus hadn’t been on a stage in about eight years, and Wayne [Taylor, guitarist] hadn’t performed to an audience in about 20 years! I did feel a bit vulnerable, so we also had a rehearsal the day before we performed.

“As for the day of the show itself, I don’t remember much, to be honest!” Patrick says. “What I remember the most is that I took about eight hot showers! There’s a lot of air conditioning in the backstage area, and it was really drying out my throat, so the only way I could lubricate my voice properly was to take these near boiling hot showers. I just kept walking out of the dressing room in a towel all afternoon, Andrew was saying, ‘Fucking hell, you must be the cleanest man in doom!'”

So it was a sparkling, squeaky clean Patrick Walker who stepped up on stage to deliver those mournful, exhilarating, transcendental songs we all know and love, and, according to him, “it went pretty smoothly, I think”.

“Pretty smoothly” is by far and away the most shining compliment you will ever hear Patrick say about any of his shows. And if any doubts remain that their Roadburn appearance was something special, the fact that not even Patrick can poke holes in that performance is the absolute proof of it. “I don’t remember beating myself up about it afterwards,” he says with a chuckle, before adding, very seriously: “When the show finished, all I remember is feeling incredibly proud for the rest of my band. I felt wonderful for Marcus and Wayne, and Andrew too, because he was a lifesaver for us.”

And now, as with most other artists that we’ve featured on this Deep Dives series, the story continues. The ongoing relationship is there. As many of you will know, 40 Watt Sun were one of the main choices in Emma Ruth Rundle’s 2020 curatorship that sadly never took place. But we are fairly confident (and we’re not pushing you, Patrick, don’t worry!) that we might see him in Tilburg a few times more.

“I’m not a prolific live performer,” Patrick says. “I don’t do a lot of shows, and that’s largely through choice. But the times I’ve done Roadburn, it’s always felt like a kind of a milestone. It’s always made to feel like an event. They’re some of the best shows I’ve played, and to some of the best audiences as well. When I think back to the 90s, the idea of playing this kind of music at a festival like Roadburn would be unfathomable. There’s just such great diversity and tolerance from everyone there. It will always be my festival of choice. And like I said before, none of this has nothing to do with the billing or the stage you’re on or anything like that. It’s down to the credit of the festival and Walter that everyone is made to feel equal. We’re all on the same path. We’re all on the same journey.”

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