Bringing Warning To America: An Interview With Terrorfest Founder David Rodgers
David Rodgers is a busy man, you have to be if you're bringing a legendary band like Warning to America for the first time ever! Not only does he run Northwest Terrorfest, Southwest Terrorfest AND Austin Terrorfest but he also plays in Godhunter and runs highly touted niche metal label Battleground Records. He does all this while working with his wife at the record store they own together 1709 Records. Most importantly he has a super cute dog. So the fact that this guy was willing to spend an hour with me on the phone to talk about his work, the future of his various projects and his pure passion for the music was quite the honor. Talking to Dave is a powerful experience, you get the sense that this is a dude who has given his life to the music in a way that most of us could never imagine.
So Dave… you have to say the least, a lot going on, can you give me the run down?
I do the Terror Festivals of which there will be three this year, I run Battleground Records, I play in a band called Godhunter and my wife and I own a record store in Vancouver, Washington.
How do you do all of that? I've always been amazed by how much you get done…
I don't have any other hobbies really outside of like reading. Music is my hobby. We don't have kids. We decided years ago that we don't want kids for personal reasons. It's a terrible world. What then happens is you have a lot of spare time. If you want to play guitar when you're 16 you can because you have nothing to do all time, so imagine that but as a forty year old. This is my hobby. I don't know how I get it done sometimes but it happens.
Something else I never totally understood… why did you do Southwest Terrorfest before doing a fest closer to home?
I used to live in Tucson. I've only lived up here for a few years now. We started Southwest Terrorfest there. We started it because there used to be a thing called Club Crawl in Tucson which has a vibrant downtown, and every bar would become a venue. I used to do the metal show with some buddies. On the last year of Club Crawl in 2011 we were feeling a bit nostalgic. It was a bummer since it was the last Club Crawl metal show. We had Take Over And Destroy On it. We said 'Oh we should just start a festival' It was one of those dumb drunken decisions. The next morning we were all kind of texting each other and then decided 'Fuck it, let's do it' and that was it. Sometimes the best decisions are based on how many whiskey's you had that night.
Obviously you figured something out because you have three festivals but do you ever worry that the market will be oversaturated?
Every day. Every time I ty to choose a weekend I have to deal with a bunch of other festivals that same weekend and figure out when and where they are happening. It's a goddamn nightmare. It worries me every day. I think we joke a lot that in the near future bands won't have to really tour but just book themselves from festival to festival. It's getting to the point where bands can almost do that. You can stay on the road all summer doing that if you really want to. It's getting oversaturated, it seems like there's a lot more. We try to keep them unique and not repeat bands. We try to help up and coming bands too. We don't want to book the bands that are 'now' but rather the bands that are 'next'. It can be worrisome but we do a lot to not be lost in the shuffle.
How do you go about curating a lineup that won't get lost in the shuffle?
Very carefully! Avoid bands that are touring. A lot of these festivals, are actually just one day events where they got a pair of solid touring packages crossing paths and then a bunch of decent local bands and then all of the sudden you've got Southwestern North Dakota Festival. It looks like a festival but is it really? I kind of try and avoid stuff like that for the most part. I try and get bands who haven't played that region or city before and that's worked out well for us. For example Neurosis had never played Tucson, nor had Sleep or Pig Destroyer or a lot of the other bands. That's the best place you can be. You want bands that don't come twice a year.
How do you do that in a big music town like Seattle though?
Seattle has been tougher to book than Arizona for sure. In Tucson it's not even a B market so there are a lot of bands who have never been. A lot of what we've done with Northwest Terrorfest is find bands that have never played there before or without giving away too much, bands that may have played there but who are very relevant to Seattle.
Obviously you're a smart guy who has his shit together, and obviously you could make a lot more money even doing a more mainstream metal festival – why do you keep it underground?
Because I don't care about mainstream metal or money. That may sound very weird coming from the music world which has become very capitalistic, and I could probably go get Red Bull money and book Five Finger Death Punch and Bring Me The Horizon and pack a huge room but I don't care. I don't want to deal with people I don't actually like. Even with the underground stuff that I do there is stuff I'm just not interested in. There are bands I get offered all the time that are good bands with underground cred but I'm just not into it. My ability to do this as a hobby gives me a lot of freedom.
You were talking about wanting to bring in bands who don't play a region very often… beyond that what are the characteristics of bands you choose?
I have to like the band or my partners do. I have a different set of partners for each festival. In Tucson my friends Dave and Larry help me decide the best bands to do. In Seattle I have a bunch of good friends, local artist folks, Kay from 20 Buck Spin… a good group of people because I'm not familiar with that market, I'm new there. If I bring up a band then they will know if they will be a good choice. A lot of it is ripping off the other people in each reason and coming up with a list of who we want to book. There are no genre rules or anything like that. I like a little bit of everything that appeals to punk and metal people.
Something else I was really impressed by is the simple fact that you have a SXSW showcase. It seems like this year with Metal Injection and Metalsucks not doing showcases it seemed like there wasn't going to be a lot of metal at SXSW. So what inspired you to do that?
That's exactly what inspired me to do it. I played SXSW in the past myself and I played some of the really fun years when there was a lot of metal on it. Like when there was the Death Metal Pizza place and bands in the backyard all week long and you could play at a ton of great venues. But in the last couple of years they kind of cut it out and didn't want to bring that crowd in. There was Heavy Metal Parking Lot last year but that's not happening. ToneDeaf has a showcase but in the last couple years SXSW has had no official platform for metal. So I talked with some people I know down there and we thought it would be cool to do a show where Heavy Metal Parking Lot was last year. At that point we jumped in feet first and started booking bands. We are not an official showcase at all because there's a lot of bullshit that comes with that and a lot of the local people think the unofficial ones are better. It's just our own thing. We'll have our own tickets for it but it is during SXSW.
Well, there might be a couple that I can leak, but first of all, the Austin Terror Fest lineup has been announced and we've got a bunch of rad bands like Thou, Iron Reagan, Pinkish Black, Sex Prisoner and more on that show in March so don't miss it. I can't say anything about Southwest Terror Fest right now because we're still putting that together, although I will say that we are off to an incredible start this year and it's looking to be one of our best lineups yet. For Northwest Terror Fest though, I am pretty proud to announce that we have been working closely with our associates at Tone Deaf Touring to bring Warning over to the United States for the first time ever in 2017. No Clean Singing and Invisible Oranges are presenting these West Coast dates with Young And In The Way as support, and we have them headlining the closing show of Northwest Terror Fest this year, where they'll be playing "Watching From A Distance" in full. I really can't say enough about how much that album means to me, so to be able to bring Warning onto the fest this year is really blowing my mind. I very rarely get to watch full sets during the festivals because I'm so busy, but this time I'm going to be there for every minute of it.
To what extent does having spent a lot of time in a touring band inform how you put together a festival?
It helps a lot. I've booked shows and been in a band where people where booking shows for me. I have a grasp of how bands want to be treated. I think when a band comes to Terrorfest they feel like they are treated well. Kind of like at European festivals. Sure there aren't backstage showers or anything but we definitely make sure there's a bunch of water and beer. I feel like a lot of the time it's like 'You drove four hundred miles to get here, here's six drink tickets for five of you'. There's a lot of bullshit like that that I've had happen to me and I try and make it special.
What do you love so much about music?
I don't know. I like it so much that I still do it even though I know I'm probably not that good at it. On a personal level playing music I see a lot of my friends playing music that is just so good and that I could never play but I just keep hacking away at it. I'm kind of a miserable person at times, I didn't have a great time growing up, but music really helped me as a kid and helped with the negative feelings. There are some people that are generally down and some people do drugs or watch Netflix and I sit there and listen to bands.
Any final words of wisdom?
I don't know about wisdom, I've done a lot of dumb things! All I'll say is we get to do music so let's just be happy about it. It's a bummer how much music causes people to argue, people that are friends. That's lame. You maybe can't be happy all the time but give back to what makes you happy.