Interview by Parisa Eshrati
I spoke with the co-founder of Southwest Terror Fest, David Rodgers, in anticipation for this year's festival. We discussed the ins and outs of planning the festival, upcoming projects on the Battleground Records label, how gentrification has changed Tucson's music scene, and more.
Do you have a theme in mind when booking the bands each year (for example, this year seems more grind-centric, last year had a lot of doom bands)? Or do you book the headliners and the rest falls into place?
Yes and no. We generally stick with a theme, but that theme is based on who we land for the headliners each year. So, with Pig Destroyer and Agoraphobic Nosebleed leading things off, that definitely led to more of a grind/powerviolence/hardcore theme this year. Sometimes we have a rough idea of what we want to do ahead of time to, and we go after certain headliners in that vein. It's been that way the last two or three years now.
After the news got out that Nails went on hiatus, you guys bounced back really quickly by announcing that Despise You will be taking their place. Were they a band you already had in mind to play at Terror Fest?
Despise You was definitely a band we had in mind for Terror Fest at some point. We had asked them last year to come out and do a secret show, but they couldn't because of scheduling issues. So when Nails dropped, we had a list of bands we wanted to replace them and Despise You was right at the top of that list. When you throw a festival like this, you have to give yourself a lot of backup options because dealing with bands is like herding cats.
I know you’ve had to deal with similar issues in the past with bands dropping close to the fest. Has it been easier to maneuver these situations over the years? What’re some creative ways you’ve gone about dealing and fixing this kinda stuff?
It's never easy, not even remotely. I don't think it's getting any easier either. It takes a lot of work to get bands to come to Tucson in the first place, so when they drop with little or no notice, it puts the entire festival staff in panic mode until we get them replaced. The best way we have come up with is to have a list of replacement bands ready, and to keep an ear to the ground to gauge when a band looks like they might drop off.
A few years ago, Tucson went through a peak gentrification phase that ran out a lot of artists and venues (R.I.P. District Tavern). Do you think this affected the metal scene out here? If so, what’re some ways you’ve seen the community bounce back from it?
Well, I don't think gentrification is over at all, to begin with. We can't even begin to bounce back yet because we still haven't bottomed out on losing venues and resources. I don't know if it has affected metal any more than it affected the entire downtown music scene of Tucson. When you lose venues, support, all of that...it affects everything from the top to the bottom. That said, nothing will ever kill music in Tucson. They might make it harder, but it's a musical town and it will continue to flourish one way or another. Amazing bands are coming out of Tucson every year still.
I know seeing Neurosis play was one of your highlights, as you’ve always wanted to book them out here. Aside from that, what have been some of your favorite Terror Fest experiences both on and off stage?
All I can really say here is that every year for four days I get to hang out with my friends, listen to some of my favorite bands and have a great time. Too much of the "off-stage" fun is stuff that I probably shouldn't talk about in public, so we'll leave it at that.
Tell us about what’s going on with your label, Battleground Records. What are some upcoming projects you’re stoked about?
I've just been continuing to grow Battleground a little each year. Some albums, like CHRCH, Eight Bells and Vehemence, have done really well for us, which helps that growth, for sure. We still have a few more projects coming out this year like the Fuzz Evil full length and a pretty amazing collaborative record from Theologian and Lament Cityscape. I can't say too much about next year yet, but we have a couple really incredible bands going our roster from Boston and Salt Lake City and we expect people to dig the hell out of their records.
Last year Godhunter went on tour with Destroyer of Light after putting out that killer split LP. Do you guys have any plans to tour again this year? Any other bands you’re thinking of putting out a split with?
Godhunter has been on a bit of an unannounced hiatus since the end of tour last year. A couple members left to pursue other things in life outside music, so we took a little time off to regroup through this spring. Matt and I wrote some songs in the meantime, which turned into a new EP that we are working on, so that will probably be out in 2017, followed by another split LP with a band from Phoenix, but we shouldn't talk to much about that because it's still being worked on. We're not done yet though. We just had a busy five years and are mainly taking a well deserved rest for a while.
What do you hope to see happen in the following years of Terror Fest? Do you already have specific bands in mind for next year?
I just hope the same as every year; I want the bands to be happy and have fun, I want the fans to be happy and have fun, and I want everyone to get home safely once it's over. Beyond that, everything is gravy. And yeah, we have some plans for next year. It's looking pretty black, but that's all we'll say for right now.
For more information on Southwest Terror Fest:
All interviews posted before October 2015 were originally recorded for KAMP Student Radio.