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Sunday, 29 May 2016

“F***-Copy-and-Paste Line-ups!” NHC talks to North-of-The-Wall about their unique festival, which is putting Glasgow on the map of all things metal! - Jenny Tingle

Glasgow is a city where the music is exceptionally good. There is no doubt about that. However, less of the limelight is shone on the heavier music which the city has to offer. Like a UV ray-fearing creature of the night, metal in all of its forms tends to evade the spotlight, perhaps because of its minority demographic compared to other types of music, or because of some deeper instinct to remain underground until the screaming hordes of Beliebers and pop-music-by-numbers Top 40 disciples have evaporated in the light like a poisonous fog and taken their inane, ultra-shiny soundtrack with them.

Scottish metal is strong, and nurtured by its many musicians and listeners.
North-of-the-Wall is a name which has become almost synonymous with Scottish Metal. Although the work it does for heavier music is on a large scale, NOTW is actually run by a small core group of people who are passionate about metal. This sets them apart from other festival organisers, who are often driven by profit rather than a desire to create events which are amazing and unique. Unlike larger music festivals, the line-ups are not decided by band politics, incentives offered by managers, or how many “likes” musicians have on facebook. NOTW provides an equal platform for all of its bands, whether they are a well-established group, or new on the scene. The festival benefits all parties involved, providing a strong foundation for all things metal to thrive. Founded in Glasgow, NOTW has expanded to encompass a Scotland-wide network of bands and their fanbases, even extending to include many European metal bands, creating events and line-ups where different bands and their fanbases can connect with each other. 

The North of The Wall Festival seems like a pretty amazing event- can you please tell us at NHC a bit about North of The Wall?


“North of the Wall is an independent festival that sets out to bring amazing talent and exciting line-ups to Scotland. Over the past four editions it has continually expanded and now includes multiple stages and bands from all over Europe. We cannot and most definitely do not want to compete with bigger festivals, our aim is to give the metal scene a line-up that is fresh and highly individual, no copy and paste line-ups that you can see all over the place”.

How did North of the Wall start? And Where are you based?

 

“NOTW started as a wild idea from Morgul, the Glasgow Uni Rock and Metal society. This was back in 2012 and the notion was to create a metal festival for Scotland and to give the Scottish scene a bigger stage. Thus the entire line-up consisted of Scottish bands, of any metal genre. Be it Achren, Farseer or Scordatura. The idea of an exclusively Scottish line-up was not continued in following years and the venue was moved away from the Queen Margaret Union to the Classic Grand. We are all Glasgow based”.

Who are the people involved with it, and what roles do they fill to make it work?


“It started as an event run and organised by Morgul, the metal society, and its committee members. Without the founding members of Morgul the idea of NOTW would have never happened.  Amber Lennox and Alasdair Dunn (played NOTW this year with his band Ashenspire) amongst others were crucial in propelling the idea into a real life festival. After two editions, 2013 and 2014, I, Ansgar Hastenpflug, took over for the first time in 2014 and have been in charge since. First in my role as president of Morgul, but by now NOTW has been divorced from any metal soc. activity. Now NOTW is run by a small team of enthusiasts and we share responsibilities like contacting bands, venues, organising backline, advertisement etc”.

Are there any acts who regularly play at North of the Wall? A core group of bands involved with you?


“No, although we have had a few repeats over the years. For instance Edinburgh Doomers Atragon played the very first edition in 2013 but returned this year, 2016. Overall though we try to keep things exciting and fresh so we very much avoid repetition”.

What do you have planned for the 2017 festival?

“We are already in talks with and have confirmed a number of bands. I cannot say more but it will all be revealed over the coming months. It is definitely happening again next spring and will continue the course of this year’s event, featuring bands from all over the UK and Europe. We are again working very hard to ensure a coherent and well balanced line-up as well as a few surprises”.

Any exciting plans for the future?


“Most of our energy will be focussed on the 2017 edition of NOTW, at this point we cannot plan further ahead really. We also host a number of other shows throughout the year, which is something we might want to expand on but that depends on how busy the festival may keep us.  All info can be found on our facebook page and website”.

If there were no restrictions such as budget or place or time, what would you do?


“Have even more exclusive shows and fly-ins probably . As mentioned earlier we always try to create a line-up that you wouldn’t find elsewhere, at least not exactly like that. Thus with unlimited funds I think we’d try and reach out to bands, for example from America or Australia, that never played Scotland before and offer the crowd here an unforgettable experience”.

What would be your dream festival line up?


“As our team comes from somewhat different musical backgrounds this would be a tough one haha. We have already worked with some artists we’d never dreamed of ever meeting at the very start of the festival/promotion idea and we are very grateful for these experiences. A dream line-up would be to be able to book all your favourite artists, no matter if they fit in terms of genre or whether anyone else would come out to see them. Having said that, we very much enjoy the challenge of crafting a line-up of handpicked acts, composing a nice balance of genres, established names and up and coming talents”.

If North of the Wall had a motto, what would it be?
 

“F***-Copy-and-Paste Line-ups!  Firstly because the current metal scene in almost every facet is very strong and exciting, which means you don’t have to cling to the same old bands from the 80s and 90s or even 2000s (having said that, I mostly listen to old-school Metal but still...). There are exceptions, for example if a cult band has been split up for years or never played a country before, but generally speaking there’s a lot of fresh talent around, old genres played with new ideas or old ideas put into new contexts etc. If you want to see the same bands regurgitated every year then, be my guest; go to Bloodstock, Download, Hellfest or Wacken.
Secondly, even in extreme metal there is a trend to put the same dozen or so bands on your line-up to make it hip and trendy. In and of themselves they are usually phenomenal bands and/or line-ups but when you see the same fest in Belgium, Norway, Scotland etc. it gets tedious. We aim to bring fresh talent (like this year e.g. Barshasketh, Lunar Mantra), established acts (Aura Noir or Destroyer 666) and simply the bands most relevant at the moment (e.g. Cult of Fire, Cruciamentum), into one line-up”.

How can bands who are passionate about heavier music become involved with you? How can they contact you?


“You can reach us via our Facebook page, facebook.com/thenorthofthewall as well as under our email, northofthewallfestival@gmail.com. We compile the whole line-up before announcing anything this time and usually it is us that contact the bands, but we appreciate applications as there can always be gems that we’ve missed thus far”.

Best and weirdest moments you’ve witnessed at events so far?


“One of the best moments was probably to see the bands arrive for their sound check at the very first NOTW in the Queen Margaret Union. Bands that played Bloodstock or that were 80s cult legends (like Edinburgh’s Heavy Metallers Holocaust) unloading their gear, the beginning of a long journey... There have been outstanding sets every year, some highlights were Toledo Steel (Heavy Metal from England) in 2014, B√∂lzer from Switzerland blasting everyone’s face off in 2015 (and being the first non UK or Irish band to perform NOTW) and Destroyer 666 black-thrashing a packed out venue into oblivion this year. 


Also a touching moment for us was to see so many people travelling to NOTW, especially this year as we have put together the biggest line-up to date. Going outside between the venues for a smoke and hearing dozens of different languages around was great. We even had someone making their way from the USA! Weirdest moments...we’re usually too busy to witness all the fun haha, but a band (let’s not drop any names) smoking weed in the backstage was stress we could have done without, though it gave the following Doom bands an appropriate odour”.

What do you think could make the Scottish Metal Music Scene even better, and why?


“The Scottish Metal Scene has a lot of unused potential in our eyes. We have worked hard to make NOTW what it is, and especially the latest event, 2016, helped to put Glasgow on the map in the European extreme music scene. People from all over Europe travelled to the event. However, the Scottish scene has a lot to offer as it is, plenty of gigs and passionate promoters, like Pisschrist Promotions in Edinburgh, Critical Events in Perth/Dundee or Audio Glasgow and Black Reach Promotions in Glasgow and Aberdoomed Promotions and Ram it Down in Aberdeen. 


There is no shortage of gigs, big and small, for metal fans in Scotland. What IS LACKING though is decent metal clubs and bars where fans can exchange ideas, hang out and simply bond as a scene. At least in Glasgow we often witness that people might go to the same shows for years, but they come in their respective little groups and leave in them after the show is over. There are places like the Cathouse, Cult or Solid Rock but they don’t necessarily appeal musically to most of the metal scene and are far from being a place to just hang out and chat (Solid Rock to an extent). An underground metal bar, I’m not asking for a place that plays Darkthrone 24/7, but somewhere that offers a welcoming hub for people with alternative or extreme music tastes would be a great addition to the local scene. It is hard, but it might be just about possible that way to reunite some of the dozens of fractured metal sub-genres and strengthen the idea of a “scene””.

Anything else you would like to say to NHC for the music blog?


“The work NHC does it great, though it is focussed more on the alternative/rocky end of the scale. NHC does work with a number of metal bands already, but I’d wish more members of the metal scene would pick up on your ideas. As mentioned above, a place to hang out and exchange ideas, like your shop, would be badly needed if the metal scene is supposed to be more than various groups (or sub-genres) doing their own thing and not supporting each other. I know full well that “being a metalhead” does not mean that you like ALL kinds of metal, but sometimes a bit more interconnectedness between the parts of the scene, the venues and the promoters (not clashing and double booking for example!) can improve the scene a lot”.

You can get in touch with North of The Wall on their Facebook page,
facebook.com/thenorthofthewall
Or check out their upcoming gigs at their website,
northofthewall.wix.com/festival


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