Saturday, May 13, 2017

Interview with fest organizer JB MATSON of MARYLAND DOOM FEST by Dave Wolff


How did you get started as owner and organizer of Maryland Doom Fest?
I have been part of and influenced by the Maryland Doom scene most of my life and have organized several events. I decided it was time to showcase the current, up and coming talent this region has to offer, giving these underground acts exposure as well as the opportunity to share the stage with well-known bands. The outcome of our first fest back in 2015 led me to realize this effort was to continue and grow with each successful event. 2017 will be our third installment. Each fest hosts 35-45 bands over a three day period but we have added a pre-fest show this year, making it four days of doom! 41 bands total this year with only ten minutes in between each set provides constant listening heaviness.

Who were the first bands of the Maryland doom metal scene you listened to?
I actually grew up in the same neighborhood (Wheaton) as The Obsessed and Asylum (now Unorthodox) but wasn’t really introduced to the doom scene until I moved near Frederick, Maryland and became close friends with the members of Internal Void. Internal Void initially got me addicted to the doom metal scene and the genre as a whole.

What attracted you to Internal Void’s style of doom metal when you met them?
I met those guys while abusing alcohol at some party. When I first heard them play live I knew I had been introduced to the real definition of HEAVY metal. I was hooked on doom from that point forward.

Where can Internal Void’s work be downloaded and purchased? How much material is available from them?
Internal Void has a Facebook page and dozens of videos on Youtube, both of their produced tracks and live footage. They have an expansive discology with the only lineup changes being of their drummer(s).

Which of Internal Void’s Youtube videos would you suggest watching? How many drummers have they worked with and how is their current drummer working out?
Any Internal Void video would be good but my personal favorites are tracks off the Standing On The Sun EP. They have had five drummers total and were not an active band for several years recently. They did however reunite this past summer to play The Maryland Doom Fest 2016, bringing back Eric Little (the original drummer) to play a few songs. I don't want to speak for the band but I believe that was their last and final performance. The Maryland Doom Fest has had multiple bands reunite within their ranks.

How would you rate Standing On The Sun as a doom metal album?
In my personal opinion it is amongst my all-time top 5 doom albums. I have been listening to Internal Void for over 39 years and still slap that CD in regularly.

How big is the local doom metal scene? Do you support it because of insufficient zine and webzine coverage?
The Maryland Doom Fest currently has multiple "followers" on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube. We have an information website, The doom scene has always been underground unfortunately. Just recently has this scene become somewhat noticed with Sleep, Electric Wizard, and the Black Sabbath reunion(s). There has been an overwhelming amount of doom erupting from Maryland over the decades. I felt the Doom scene needed some well-deserved and overdue exposure.

I have noticed how many doom metal bands are influenced by Black Sabbath to some degree. Why do you think so many are inspired by them?
Two words. Tony Iommi. His guitar sound and riffs are what shaped the future of doom metal in my opinion. Musical influence can influence in many forms but I really believe that both psychedelic classic rock and punk rock (believe it or not) play a huge roll in the doom genre.

Did you catch Black Sabbath’s reunion tour? How do you feel that they’re retiring after over forty years?
I did not catch any of their shows as I have reserved feelings about the whole Bill Ward and Sharon drama. I don't want to get too into that controversy but I'm a huge Bill Ward fan and I think he should have been involved in that tour to some degree.

What roles do you believe punk and psychedelic rock had in shaping doom metal?
When the Maryland doom scene erupted in the 80's, such bands as Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, and Sex Pistols were prevalent and had a huge impact on both musicians and fans during that period.

What punk and psychedelic rock elements have most doom metal bands incorporated?
I think the best example would be the early days of The Obsessed when Vance was their front man. Their live performances were doom metal with a heavy side of punk.

How much do you think doom metal has progressed since The Obsessed and Trouble?
Almost zero. The growth and awareness of doom metal is similar with to watching a cactus grow. That is the primary reason I host The Maryland Doom Fest. People need to know what they've been missing. I can tell you that the musicians that play doom metal have the talent to play any genre but the love for doom is a unique, almost spiritual feeling.

How long have you been organizing events? What events were you involved in before Maryland Doom Fest? How did you go about spreading word?
A majority of the larger events I hosted were benefits for brothers and sisters in the doom community. For promotions, I use several avenues but rely mostly on word of mouth of both current and past patrons. Mark and I still post flyers around the area (in record / music stores and venues) trying to capture those who are not social media friendly.

What inspired you to host a yearly fest after those benefits? When you began booking for Maryland Doom Fest, how many bands were interested in a spot?
The vision was to showcase local underground talent while at the same time giving these bands the opportunity to share the stage with bigger, well known acts and play in front of a large crowd. The same day that I announced the inaugural event, I had an outpouring of bands contacting me to be a part of it. The entire lineup was assembled in less than two weeks’ time. This has quadrupled since 2015. We have not experienced the 2017 fest yet but we have enough bands interested that we could assemble the 2018 lineup right now.

Did it take long to find a venue to host Doom Fest? Did you spread word by passing out fliers or promoting on social media?
Café 611 has been a venue that I had booked multiple other smaller shows at in the past and has been the perfect venue for The Maryland Doom Fest for the past two years and will be the spot for the 2017 fest. I posted a few flyers at local music stores and at a few gigs but primarily relied on social media for promotions. Friends of ours in Norway that come to our fest annually also helped by passing out flyers at the Roadburn Festival in The Netherlands.

Does promoting the fest on social media help bring more fans to your events?
Without a doubt. Social media is our primary promotion tool in conjunction with word of mouth from attendees of prior years' fests. To date I have not seen a negative review of The Maryland Doom Fest (and I hope I didn't just jinx that). Most attendees and fans rave about their experience at our fest.

Are your friends from Norway visiting your fest musicians or fans you correspond with?
They are fans. Huge fans of the scene and what we are accomplishing with our fest. Their enthusiasm shown at our first fest was undeniable and we look to them for their insight and approval. We consider them part of our team for sure.

Describe the pre-fest show you’re putting on to coincide with Doom Fest.
The Pre fest party is a colossal start to a four day weekend of doom consisting of local favorites - Valkyrie as the headliner, Beastmaker from Cali, Pilgrim from Rhode Island, other locals Weed Is Weed & Borracho, Sweet Heat (formerly Balam) and Chicago's Spillage. This is a part of the event not to miss! Weekend Pass holders get into the Pre Fest Party for only $10!!!

Who were some of the bands that reunited to perform at Doom Fest? How well were they received when they played?
Asylum (Unorthodox) - all original members, Outside Truth, Earthride (2017) and Mind’s Eye to name a few. All the bands have had huge receptions. Each of these bands have Facebook pages where you can learn more about them.

How much information does Maryland Doom Fest’s website provide?
Our website is strictly for information regarding the upcoming fest. Merch, lodging, sponsors, lineup, tickets, contact info, etc. We have a Facebook official page that offers much more info in regards to the fest and Maryland Doom in general.

What were the requirements bands had to meet for a spot? Which of the bands that contacted you had the most potential to draw an audience?
All the Maryland Doom Fest bands are selected by myself and my partner Mark Cruikshank. Many of the bands we hire, we are already familiar with. Others send us their music to hear and we choose the bands that have obvious talent.

Who appearing on the fest are you familiar with, and how do you decide which bands are sufficiently talented?
We are familiar with at least 75% of this year’s 42 band roster. Ultimately, Mark and I assemble a list of our personal favorites of bands we are currently fans of, or bands that sent us submissions for possible lineup consideration. Then we narrow the lists down based on this analogy.

Explain what Doom Fest Brew is and how it is made?
It is a dry hopped English IPA with around 6% alcohol content brewed exclusively for our festival by Oliver Brewing Co. in Baltimore, Maryland. We will have both cans and on tap available at all four days of this year’s event. We will be releasing the art for the can labels soon! Everybody must try it.

What gave you the idea to brew your own beer? Did you approach Oliver Brewing Company for production and distribution?
Mark Cruikshank: The story behind getting involved with Oliver Brewing Company is that shortly before the first Doom Fest in 2015. I had gone to see The Sword play in Baltimore. At that show they were selling a beer that Oliver had made as a tribute to The Sword. They named it Winter's Wolves after one of their songs and sold it on tap with commemorative pint glasses. I bought was fantastic. After that I did a little research on the brewery and found out that the head brewmaster there is a big fan of doom metal. Then shortly after the first Doom Fest when JB and I began discussing sponsorships I decided to ask them outright if they'd sponsor us. They said yes and we've been developing our relationship ever since then. In 2016 we sold an Oliver Brewing Company beer on tap at the venue during the show and it went over very well. This year they are brewing a new beer for us and canning it for limited distribution just before and during The Maryland Doom Fest 2017. We will have a special event at the brewery when the beer is ready for release that will include live performances of at least one or two bands that are playing Doom Fest this year. That's it in a nutshell. The beer will be a dry hopped English IPA ... around 6% av.

Would you market Doom Fest Brew on a larger scale or is it exclusively for the fest? Do you know any companies that might be interested in helping market Doom Fest Brew?
Currently it is exclusively for our fest but I would love to see sales grow. It is a fantastic beer! This venture is still in the novice stages but that is definitely the plan. Oliver Brewing is equally excited about our beer and its reviews. This year we will not only have it on tap but also canned. We are super stoked about that! The 2017 beer release event is June 3 at Oliver Brewing Company. It will be a great, family friendly party with local doom band CAVERN playing live. Cavern is also playing at The Maryland Doom Fest 2017!

How did you hook up with Fanny Shamer? Are you seeking to expand your management?
Fanny is a longtime friend and supporter of the local scene. She has experience in hosting some large doom shows such as Cleavage Of Doom and the Jason McCash (The Gates Of Slumber) benefit. She also had roles in the assembly of the infamous SHoD fests. The GoS were a killer doom band from Indy that unfortunately lost their bassist, Jason McCash, in a tragic manner. The benefit was to raise money for the family he left behind was titled True Templar of Doom and was held in 2014. The remaining GoS members continued on under the band name Wretch, who will be playing the Maryland Doom Fest this summer. A couple grand was raised for Jason's widow. Both The Obelisk and Hellride Music covered the event.

Has GOS/Wretch appeared at the Maryland Doom Fest previously or is this summer going to be their debut appearance?
This will be the first time we have had Wretch at the fest and we're super excited. Wretch will be doing Gates of Slumber material as well as new material for us in June. We can’t wait!

What is the S.H.O.D. fest which Sharmer has had a hand in putting together? How did The Stoner Hands of Doom get started, and how much of a crowd did it draw each year?
The Stoner Hands of Doom shows were a doom festival that lasted about a decade. The Maryland Doom Fest is carrying the SHoD torch. Rob and Cheryl Levey started SHoD and kept it going until 2013. It was sadly missed and I started Maryland Doom Fest in 2015. The SHoD crowds were always packed and now the same awesome fans have migrated to The Maryland Doom Fest events.

You hired the Reverend Jim Forrester as official MC. How many events was he involved in before he became the MC for Doom Fest? In what ways does he fit as your official MC?
He's the perfect fit for the job. Perfect personality, and he's well known in the doom scene. Rev Jim has been in multiple bands but is best known for being the bassist in now defunct Sixty Watt Shaman. He is currently the bassist in the rising band - Foghound. The Rev is a unique, charismatic individual. He is one of the nicest people you will ever meet and he has a heart bigger than Texas. When I considered having an MC at our events, Jim was the first guy that popped into my mind. He obliged when I asked him and killed it at Maryland Doom Fest 2016. Don't let the large skull and crossbones tattoo on top of his bald head scare you!

How active was Sixty Watt Shamanabd while Forrester was playing with them? Do they still have material available?
If I'm not mistaken, they toured, opening up for Black Label Society. I believe you can still find their material online although the band is defunct. 
How recently did Foghound get together? Do they plan to release any demos before the year is out?
Foghound has been together for five years, two releases. And they’re currently working on release number three with Frank Marchand. It’s set for a fall release on Ripple Music. EVERYBODY needs to check out Foghound.

Are you considering plans to record a full festival for a DVD release or social media streaming? If you were to decide on this, would you do so with your own equipment or hire professionals?
Currently we record all acts of the fest and they can be viewed individually on YouTube. We have been discussing a DVD since our inaugural year in 2015 but there is a lot of red tape involved with releasing material from forty-plus bands. It's still on our radar however.

Would a CD compilation of the bands from Maryland Doom Fest be on your roster for new projects of the year?
A compilation of the fest has been my desire since year one but has proven to be rather difficult in regards to permissions, royalties, agents, and distribution. It will happen eventually but I’m not sure how soon. However we will still continue to offer all of the footage from the fest on YouTube following the event.

In the years to come would you want Maryland Doom Fest to be a major event similar to Hellfest and Wacken? Is this a goal you will be able to achieve?
The bigger the fest becomes, the more exposure the bands receive. In my attempt to bring awareness to the doom scene, I can only hope that this festival grows and grows! I hope to have the American Roadburn so to speak.

Official website:
Twitter: @MdDoomFest
Instagram: @marylanddoomfest

-Dave Wolff

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