Monday, February 8, 2021

Interview with Will Feiner of Transplant Productions by Dave Wolff

Interview with Will Feiner of Transplant Productions

How long have you been booking shows for underground metal bands and for what reasons did you start? In what areas of the US do you usually operate?
Transplant Productions: “Transplanting valuable energy and insight into the underground heavy music scene in the greater Cincinnati area through event promotion.”
I first started booking shows about eleven years ago when I was the vocalist in a crappy little band from Kirksville, MO. Being from farm country, I got real used to going DIY for any show we ever put together. When we mercifully decided the band should hang it up, I gave up show booking for a few years.
Live music is the greatest thing in the world to me. Whether attending or playing. It’s the only way I can genuinely and consistently connect with the world around me. When I realized I was not a good musician, I wanted to become involved in the underground using whatever strongest skillset I may have. Born an organizer and with a background in retail management, I thought going back to the booking roots would be the best way for my skills to serve the underground community. I moved to Cincinnati in 2017 and started booking shows that summer. Shows started being booked under the Transplant brand officially during March of 2018.
Currently Transplant is booking in Cincinnati, OH and Newport, KY, along both sides of the Ohio River. While the majority of my booking over the last three years has been focused in the greater Cincinnati area, the very first event organized by the Transplant brand was held in Dayton, OH. Tons of great bands in Dayton, and I’d love the opportunity to book more there as well.
The majority of Transplant shows involve regional and local bands playing on tours or appearing for one-off performances, mostly drawing from the midwest and east coast. I have dabbled in buying some larger tour packages here and there, but my heart will always be with the underground.
Starting in July 2018, I began booking an annual metal fest in Cincinnati called Transplant Fest. Due to COVID the 2020 edition was first postponed and then cancelled. However, the event is being rebooted bigger and better than ever in 2021. I have been working hard to try and create a one of a kind experience for the underground metal fans in our area of the USA.

What was the local scene in Kirksville like when your band was active and how often did you perform before hanging it up? Did the band release anything during this time?
The local scene in Kirksville was strong but very eclectic. We played shows with whatever bands were active, were open to our heavier style of music, and liked to rage. To play with bands similar to us we often had to make friends with bands from one to six hours away from Kirksville. There was so little live music in my hometown other than radio country cover bands that anything original and tasty we were down to clown with. Our two main stalwarts of the local scene were a blues/southern rock hybrid band, and a progressive thrash band. We only played a few shows on the road, but we successfully hosted a dozen or so punk and metal bands in Kirksville over the course of a couple years. We threw gigs in the basement of the local newspaper printing building, in the local med school fraternity party house, basements, and the bowling alley to name the predominant spots.
We released a demo recording of six songs on CDR’s with the tracks handwritten on the front. I think we sold these for $5 and probably sold about 25 of them. They were only out for a couple months before the band called it quits. The demo was recorded in my buddy’s garage that was soundproofed with egg cartons because he recorded blues jam bands. Because he had no experience with recording anything heavier than blues or country, the tracks were left essentially as-is from the all in one live takes. It was pretty bad.

What were you doing in between booking gigs and what made you decide to resume your activities? How do you go about finding bands to book shows for?
After CTSP hung up the spikes, I moved to Columbia, MO due to a promotion at my job. I worked in corporate retail management. I stayed an avid supporter of the local scene there, and often drove two to four hours one way to go to shows in St. Louis, Kansas City, Jefferson City, Springfield, Kirksville, Warrensburg, Rolla, Warrenton, Chillicothe, Cape Girardeau, and Jackson. I had an epiphany moment where I knew I had to leave the corporate job or forever forfeit my soul, so I took the opportunity to start over doing something I love and means more to me than the money of a corporate job ever could.

What was it about corporate life that made you decide not to pursue it long term? What about getting involved in band booking did you find more appealing?
I wanted to get involved with something as a career that I was truly passionate about. I knew if I could make a living doing something I was truly passionate about that I would be a much more fulfilled person and make a far greater positive impact on my fellow humans. For five years I itched to get back into the music industry that I loved instead of just making a buck chasing promotions I really didn’t care about on a personal level. Switching my career path was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

How did you suspect booking metal bands would have more of a positive impact on your world and the world around you?
Ultimately I wanted to get back into live music and extreme music is what I am personally passionate about. Live music is the greatest thing this world has to offer me and so it just made a lot of sense to go into the event production side of things.

How did the scene in Columbia compare to the scene in Kirksville? How often would you visit the other cities you mentioned seeing shows in? Were there any bands in those cities you liked enough to support through booking?
The scene in Columbia was much deeper than in Kirksville. Being in a more central location of MO geographically speaking, many bands were more easily able to travel there and draw better crowds. This also allowed me to travel more easily to St. Louis, Kansas City, and Springfield for shows. I would say I was road-tripping to attend gigs on average probably once per month. There are many bands that I still follow in MO, and several I have made the effort to book in Cincinnati since moving here. NEVALRA has played here twice, and Dead Medusa and Degrave have both played here once each. Also have attempted to book Devourist and Gourmand out here, but unfortunately plans have fallen through to this point. There’s a ton of great heavy music in MO, but being an area of the country that doesn’t get toured super hard outside of the two major cities, a lot of the underground bands remain largely undiscovered. I will always have a ton of love and support for heavy music coming out of my home state.

Did you get to attend any national metal fests before thinking of starting your own? Which ones have you gotten to see and which would you like to if you haven’t yet?
I was fortunate enough to attend Blood Of The Wolf Festival in Lexington, KY in 2017before its conclusion in 2019. Great festival with strong underground pull both nationally and internationally. I also attended Full Terror Assault Festival in 2018 and that event is an absolute blast. I personally love the open air format and it was a great experience. I’d also like to attend Mass Destruction Fest in Atlanta and Maryland Deathfest in the near future when possible.

How did you spread word about the first two Transplant Fests, and who were the bands that performed at these events? What are you planning for the next event?
At this point I would say I have a decent sized network across the midwest and east coast. Word of mouth recommendations and reaching out first hand to bands I want to work with is absolutely how I have booked the vast majority of shows over the last three-plus years. I want to book what I like, but I also have to book what people in the Cincinnati/NKY scene want to see, so I like to live in the cross-section between the two. Predominantly I book death metal, black metal, thrash metal, grindcore, punk and everything in between. Typically I work with bands out of the surrounding five or six states unless I catch someone I want to work with going on tour. This keeps travel short and costs relatively low. My goal is to really strengthen the local and regional touring networks especially coming off unprecedented circumstances such as COVID. While I have booked a couple of tour packages for Continental, Crawlspace, and Ashley Talent in the past, Transplant Fest is the only event where I go out of my way to draw bands from farther across the US or internationally.
Transplant Fest 1 Lineup was Incantation. Ringworm. Black Fast. Estuary. Valdrin. Nevalra. Cryptic Hymn. Cemetery Filth. Burial Oath. Apocryphal Revelation. Well Of Night.
Transplant Fest 2 Lineup was Dismemberment. Automb. Bane (Serbia). Negative Reaction. Molder. Inoculation. Machinations Of Fate. Automaton. Weed Demon. Verment. Blessed Black. Zuel.
Transplant Fest 3 Lineup (cancelled due to COVID) was Midnight. Malignancy. Shed The Skin. Morta Skuld. Warsenal (Canada). Tyrant. Limbsplitter. Stonecutters. Obscene. Lectularius. Black Knife. Ascended Master. The first two editions of the event were advertised online via Facebook and Instagram. They were also advertised physically (like all other Transplant shows) via flyers and handbills hung across central and southern OH, northern KY, and hand to hands at shows in the same areas. For the 3rd edition that was set to be held in July of 2020, I had an official press release drawn up and set to be sent out to publications, radio stations, and other appropriate media outlets across the country.
For 2021, I do not yet want to divulge too much information at this time, as all specific details are yet forthcoming to the public. A venue has been secured and much of the lineup has already been booked. The event is taking a major step up and forward with several changes to the format of the event itself. I want to eventually make Transplant Fest the biggest and best event of its kind anywhere in the United States, and this year will be a huge move in that direction! Stay tuned!

How were the turnouts for Transplant Fests 1 and 2 due to advertising? Did you consider doing the third fest as a streaming event of sorts, or would that have been too difficult to arrange compared to arranging a live event?
The first two editions of Transplant Fest both drew between 200-250. In 2018 there was massive storming and even flash flooding in Cincinnati which may have hurt the turnout, and in 2019 the headliner cancelled less than a week prior to the event’s announcement. Given these two factors, I think they still did pretty well especially for a more bare-bones style promotional approach. The venue for those first two years was Northside Yacht Club, a 250 cap punk club, which obviously the event was quickly outgrowing despite some of the circumstances I have mentioned above. In 2020, the event was to be moved to The Southgate House Revival in Newport, KY directly across the OH River from Cincinnati. This club has a total capacity of 600, and with the likes of Midnight and Malignancy coming to the party, I’m certain Transplant Fest 3 would have continued its growth in a big way. Doing a streaming event for Transplant Fest was never really an option for me. While setting up an event of that kind is surely much different and comes with its own set of headaches, it wasn’t really about the logistics of making a streaming event happen. This year for the TF3 reboot, the event will be taking some major steps forward with the formatting and promotion of the event. I can’t wait to show everyone what is in store! Live metal music is the greatest thing in the world to me and why I started Transplant Production in the first place. This is my passion, and I know that we’ll be able to come back from the current circumstances stronger than ever. Transplant shows will always be live events, and if the day ever comes that live events as we know them are no longer permitted, that will be the day Transplant ends and I take shows truly underground! DIY and basement shows will never die. That’s how I started booking shows and if that’s how they end up, I’m prepared for that!

Were the first two fests caught on video? If any of the bands were filmed, would you consider releasing it on DVD format to show what the event is like?
I believe there is some video footage from Transplant Fest 1. Gus Geraci was able to capture the Estuary set and a few other bands. This was shared on the Facebook event page I believe.
In 2021 there will be a professional videographer on hand and the goal is to get a compilation video of some sort to release for free and use as promotional material in the future. If the event ever gets big enough to fund a DVD shoot that would be amazing!

Until you have the funding to release a DVD, are you streaming any footage from the first two Transplant Fests on Facebook, Youtube or Vimeo?
No footage from the first two events exists at that level that I am aware of. I’ll be working with the videographer for TF3 to do some live videos from the event, as well as putting up some full sets and compilation videos of the event for free on YouTube.

If you had a chance to release a DVD, would it be an independent release or would you release it through a label?
If I had the opportunity to release a Transplant Fest DVD it would definitely be independently released. This way the folks involved with the production of the film would keep the lion’s share of the profits of their work, and the fans would have more faith in the intentions and integrity of the product I believe.

Describe any other plans you can mention for the third Transplant Fest? Do you still think Covid will still be an issue by then?
Unfortunately, there’s so much that I can’t yet say about Transplant Fest 3 as it is unannounced at this time. The format of the event will be much larger in scope than either of its past editions. I think that by August things will definitely be better than they are now for live events, and I feel confident that with the preparations that are being put in place we will have no issues holding Transplant Fest successfully. I think that local, regional, and even national fans of extreme underground music will be excited upon the revealing of this event’s details, and I am champing at the bit to give it to them.

Who have you most often booked at clubs, and which clubs have been easiest to work with?
I’ve been very fortunate to work with some outstanding venues on a regular basis pre-lockdown. Northside Yacht Club, Northside Tavern, and Urban Artifact were all mainstays for Transplant shows for two plus years during 2018, 2019, and into 2020. I really hope that things improve enough for these businesses to back to live events as soon as possible! From the top down they are outstanding establishments and I’d be honored to take Transplant shows to any of them in the future. Towards the end of 2019 I started getting some shows booked at The Southgate House Revival in Newport, KY, directly across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. They feature two full size stages and 600 total capacity in a renovated church building. The venue is beautiful and Morrella is both exceedingly professional and pleasant to work with. Over half of Transplant shows that were on the books for 2020 (booked before the initial lockdown occurred) were located at SGHR, including Bastard Fest, Transplant Fest, and several national and international tours. After the initial lockdown came and passed, we started up shows again at SGHR in July and held four shows there before December. During this time, I also had the pleasure of booking three shows at a more unconventional venue, Fuzzy’s Tacos in Clifton. Ron is great to work with, and with the help of some out-of-work sound technicians and show production folks, we’ve had that place rocking like you wouldn’t believe. At this time, these are the only two venues that I am booking at moving forward into 2021, but I am sincerely hopeful that things improve and Transplant shows can return to some of the amazing clubs in Northside! While I could list you a slew of hard working and talented bands in the greater Cincinnati/NKY/Dayton area, and I certainly mean no slight to any bands not mentioned hereafter, I would like to mention three bands in particular whom I have worked with most frequently since starting Transplant Productions. Verment, Valdrin, and Nithing. FFO death metal and black metal. The music speaks for itself so please check them all out on YouTube or Bandcamp and support via physical merchandise when possible!

How reliable have Verment, Valdrin and Nithing been as business partners since you began working with them? How much originality do you think they’re offering extreme metal?
I have had only good experiences working with Valdrin, Verment, and Nithing. They are all team players and pay attention to detail. Musically speaking, they all have a very original sound and show maturation with every release. Valdrin is a blackened death metal band with a distinct mythos and unbelievable musicianship. They have released two full length records on Blood Harvest Records and show no signs of slowing down. Verment is death metal influenced by the old school with a twist of modern brutal death metal. Catchy and aggressive, their songwriting is superb with no room for filler. Nithing is pretty eccentric in the extreme metal dominion. Fusing raw black metal with death metal aggression and a rough crust punk exterior, fans from all across the spectrum will find something fruitful in their ferocious approach.

How active will publicity and advertising for Transplant Fest 3 be?
At this point it’s still too early to divulge my accomplices’ identities. However, Transplant Fest 3 should have a lot more legs than the past events due to the change in format as well as some of the entities working with Transplant on producing the event.

At this point will booking metal festivals be viable for you career wise? How big do you eventually want to see Transplant Fest become?
For me, Transplant Fest is my brand defining event and the goal is to grow it to the point of being the premier event of its kind in this general area of the USA. However, Transplant Fest is only a piece of what Transplant brings to the table. Transplant Fest is about supporting the metal underground and its fans, and I do this because I love it, so if the event pays for itself I’ll be a supremely happy individual. Ultimately I’d like to grow Transplant Productions to the point it pays all my bills and meets my needs, but this is my passion so that’s a secondary priority to putting together cool events and booking sick bands.

Does the level of success you’re envisioning include booking national and international bands at the fest at some point? How viable do you think this would eventually be?
TF2 was the first time this specific event hosted an international band which was Bane (Serbia). 2020’s cancelled edition was to have hosted Warsenal (Canada). With travel conditions being what they are in 2021, TF3 will most likely host USA bands only. However, I can say that I have already talked with bands from Europe, South America, Canada, and Mexico about playing the event in the future. I would definitely say it is a goal to eventually feature international bands on every installment of Transplant Fest.

Which bands from those countries have you started discussing future fests with? If booking bands from Mexico and Canada would be easier in terms of travel, would it go a ways toward giving the scenes in those countries more recognition in the US?
While I cannot discuss which international bands in particular I have talked to about future performances at Transplant Fest, I do think it would be a huge step up for the event to book bands from Canada, Mexico, South America, and Europe. I think that quite often a lot of underground bands in Canada and Mexico are relatively unknown here in USA simply for the fact of the expenses for them to tour here. When a band is playing for door deals and small guarantees every night, it can be daunting to take on the expense not only of the correct visas and legal fees, but also the general expenses that come along with touring on the road for any period of time. Hopefully Transplant Fest at some point will allow some of these bands a destination event for underground tours of such and help create a pipeline for underground bands to come to the midwest and east coast from across those neighboring borders.

How would you want to be remembered for your contributions to underground music and the impact Transplant Fest made with fans of extreme music?
If people say anything positive at all, hopefully they’ll say “he booked some badass bands.” Honestly I could care less whether people remember Transplant, but I hope they keep the memories they made at these shows unto their death. Live metal music is the greatest thing this world has offered me and I only want to pass that on to others. Anything else that comes along with my passion is of no significant importance as far as it pertains to me.

-Dave Wolff

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