Daniel Dismal on the State of the Underground in Los Angeles

During the NATIONAL SUNDAY LAW set at Mountain Bar Wednesday night, guitarist Darin Tambascio told the crowd that "We are from Los Angeles...unfortunately."  Maybe not the best comment to make at a show in Los Angeles, and sure enough it raised the ire of one guy in the audience who proceeded to heckle the band for a few songs.  But as Darin explained to me after, his comment was not about the city in general - it was an expression of frustration with Los Angeles's support (or lack thereof) for underground music.  That concern is justified.  Over the last few months, the Knitting Factory has closed, the Black Castle has announced it is closing, the Relax Bar has reduced its schedule to just Saturday nights, Martin DePedro's warehouse venue was shut down, and even Metal Mondays is taking time off.  People are just not turning out, even when the product being sold is of high quality.  But it's not all bad news.  Although the unemployment rate is at its highest point since 1983, that was a pretty good time for metal.  Our concert calendar is looking might tasty.  And the core people responsible for many of those shows, like Martin and Eddie Solis, have not given up.  We reported a few weeks ago that the most prominent underground metal promoter, Church of the 8th Day ("CO8TD"), was forced to take the unusual step of directly soliciting support for its shows.  We sent its leader, Daniel Dismal, a bunch of questions and we must say that his responses were more complete and honest than we ever expected.     

COT8D's primary venue, the Knitting Factory in Hollywood, just closed. How did COT8D first get involved with the Knitting Factory?

It was through a series of a few events to be honest. The first event being that CREMATORIUM was on tour with RAG MEN, HOODS and DONNYBROOK. The tour was originally supposed to go through the Whisky but the club put a ban on our style of music at the time so it got moved to the Knitting Factory. At that time I was already promoting shows so it basically put my foot in the door. Then the old booking agent (who also plays drums for BRUTAL TRUTH) over at Relapse Records put a show together for ORIGIN at the Knit and he asked me to help book the support and promote the show. After that show itself was a success I was able to contact the club on my own about other shows that I was putting together on my own. At the time though I wasn’t booking as many shows so my shows were somewhat far between each other until my main venue at the time, Studio S shut its doors for good. So, really three things got me involved with the Knitting Factory. 

Why did the Knitting Factory close? 

Money just wasn’t being made and the property management company never made it easy for the club to stay open. A lot of the battles that the Knit had with the city were made public as the club was always trying to get people involved in keeping the club open but things just got to the point of being ridiculous sometimes. Whether it was the fire department showing up out of nowhere to check the occupancy load or the health department rolling through trying to shut the club down and fine it for the smallest of reasons, things just became too tough to keep going. If the club was actually accepted at the location it might have not shut down because losing money might have felt a little better. I know it sounds weird but when you’re made to feel valued, losing money doesn’t seem like such a bad thing but when you’re made to feel unwanted, it makes you just want to pack up and move away. I am sure there are more official reasons as to why the club shut down but that’s honestly the way I saw it. The club was built around an entertainment compound and as the “climate” or the “orientation” of the businesses changed so did the overall treatment to the club from the property management. The ironic thing is that the Knitting Factory was the only constant business for almost 6 years there which kept things going for the property owners so in all honesty, without the Knit that whole property would have been emptied out and making no money for anyone. Even when the new businesses rolled in, they pretty much owed a lot of their walk up business to the club patrons and now, it’s just another empty shell of a building in Los Angeles. Like more of those are needed?!

The economy has hit the mainstream touring acts hard.  How has the metal underground weathered the storm?

 I wouldn’t really say that the Metal underground has weathered the storm to be honest. The touring bands of course charge us guarantees and when show attendances are down the losses come out of our pockets and though we appear to be a full-on company, when the chips are cashed in those losses come out of my pocket as well as my partners pocket. Metal in itself though has a pretty loyal fan base, always has and always will. We book all styles of music though and will continue to do so, so our losses come from all over the place besides just Metal. I can say that working with other styles of music while putting on Metal shows has shown me that Metal is still bringing out the people even though there’s less of them overall so I guess it does appear that Metal has some sort of immunity to economic climates. I guess the thing is that when things get tough in the world more extreme forms of music flourish. I think that’s because people just want an escape from it all and it’s easier to vent frustrations while listening to some Death Metal band over listening to some sort of easy listening band. That old saying of “take it out in the pit” becomes something a little more personal when you’re unemployed and eating all sorts of crap just to survive.

Knitting Factory has said they're looking for a new venue in LA but we've heard that’s not going to happen.  What's the truth?

The truth is that the people who run the Knitting Factory conglomerate was actually trying to find a new venue to move to or at least another building to turn into a venue but when you watch an entire club get boxed up and sent up to another state it appears to be the end of the club in Southern California. The overall sentiment is that everyone involved with the Knit wants the club to come back but the overall state of things makes it seem like opening up another club at this point in time might be a wrong move. There are Knitting Factories opening up in other areas such as the one being put together in Reno but as for any concrete plans for another KFLA, it’s just talk right now and nothing more.

Your calendar suggests COT8D is moving west.  Is the Strip going to be your permanent home?

For the time being we do have a handful of shows planned out in what I’ve always known as the Red Light District but these shows were moved as an act of necessity and not of want. I can honestly say that working with the some of the staff over at the Key Club and the Roxy has actually turned into a pleasurable experience but the overall costs to do shows such as ours in these areas are pushing our prices for shows higher and higher. We’ve always prided ourselves on the fact that our shows have always been affordable for the people so raising prices to cover these extra expenses has really been hard for us. I mean, it might seem like we’re raising prices to make ourselves more money but in all actuality prices are going up in order to keep the shows coming to Los Angeles. It’s funny in a sense; everyone keeps making more money except for us! I guess I must be kind of sick in a sense to find humor in the fact that we’re constantly at the same point in our personal finances while others are bringing in extra money. I do understand that overall expenses are higher on the West side and maybe if the Knit was charging us more they’d still be around but damn, it does get to a point where we start thinking along the lines of “can’t a dog get a damned bone” sometimes! In any case, we don’t plan on making the West side our permanent home but we’ll go wherever we need to go to keep what we do going. We’re beasts of necessity and not of loyalty at this point.

Tell us about your new ticketing service.  How do you get the rights to sell tickets to venues like Key Club that usually work exclusively with Ticketmaster?

 A lot of clubs retain a certain percentage of their overall capacity where they can sell tickets however they want. In this case, it’s selling tickets through our new ticketing service where the actual service charges are being reinvested into the scene rather than into a corporate machine. We’ve been able to sell the ticketing service off to venues thus far as a tool to help promote their shows that we’re actually not part of on the booking end. As for our own shows, we’re just happy to have something where we’re controlling the revenue made off of our presale tickets. We just realized one day that throughout the years we’ve made TicketWeb so much damned money and we’ve never seen anything from that money. Sure, they do provide a service but damn, we’re in the mindset to basically turn every negative thing in our scene into a positive one so it only made sense to do that with presale ticket fees.

We think metal needs a venue downtown.  What do you think of that idea?

 I agree and it actually was happening for a little while when Safari Sam’s moved from their Hollywood location to a location Downtown. I actually feel that Downtown Los Angeles has so many wasted buildings that could be used for something besides just a place for wood and concrete to rot but the city seems to like Downtown LA the way it is. Throughout the years I have put on shows at a few various locations such as the Hanging Jury and the La Hacienda Real but both didn’t last long. Right now a friend of mine is trying to put on smaller Metal events at a bar called the Sabor Lounge and it’s been pretty consistent but Downtown could easily have a building open up and turn into a Mecca for Metal. I would welcome it with open arms!

 Is Murderfest going to happen next year?

At this point the main issue with Murderfest is finding the right venue to do it at. We obviously need a venue with at least two stages and that’s what made the Knitting Factory so perfect. We discussed moving it to the Galaxy Theatre in Santa Ana but the people who we talked with about the fest just didn’t seem into it even though the fest has established itself as a force to be reckoned with. As Murderfests came and went we started to get a lot of comparisons made to Maryland Death Fest but on a much smaller level. To me, that was always an honor to be compared to that fest as they’ve provided some of the best festival line-ups I’ve personally seen but we honestly just couldn’t live up to the comparison because our venue was so much smaller than the Sonar. So, as we look for a new venue to do Murderfest we’re also trying to find somewhere to do it that would allow for more capacity so we could expand on what we’ve already accomplished with past Murderfests. At this point we are beginning work with a new venue called the Ultra Violet Social Club and there have been talks about being able to do an outdoor stage, which would bring in more capacity but nothing is set in stone yet. I want to make it clear that the Murderfest is not over and yes, we might need to take a year off but that’s honestly why we’ve always called them “versions” and not just a number. There was actually a 2-year gap between the first Murderfest and the second one so version 6.0 might take a few years to get going but it will happen, rest assured!

You've got some pretty amazing shows coming up with Eyehategod, Marduk and St. Vitus.  Any other gems to look forward to?

 We’re also working on a package with PESTILENCE, MALEVOLENT CREATION and CEPHALIC CARNAGE as well as a one off for a few other big bands. I’ve also been talking with a lot of bands from overseas about bringing them over for small West Coast tours that would of course include a stop over in Los Angeles. Honestly, we’re always working on something. Even if it seems like we’re slowing down, we’re not. We’re schemers, we love to scheme and we’re constantly looking for our next thing. We love making people say, “Damn, I can’t believe they’re booking ________!” So all I can really say is to keep your eyes on our website and sign up for our mailing list so that you can be one of the first to know about one of our many schemes that are actually coming to life.

Beyond putting on shows, what else is going on over at COT8D?

As I mentioned above, we’re always thinking of ways that we can do more for the scene. Even though I say we’re scheming I don’t mean it in a negative way. The way we scheme is in a way to figure out how to do amazing things while sticking to our morals and our DIY style of doing things. Right now we are planning on getting into releasing some live records from our shows as well as hopefully some DVD’s down the road. My partner Jordan has also started his own label called Viable Records, which will be releasing its first record from a local band called NORIEGA as well as future compilation CD’s from bands that we book on the local level. We’ve also been talking about starting our own clothing line, designing Church of the 8th Day shirts as well as getting into the marriage business. Yes, the marriage business! We have a dream to basically provide a service where we’ll book one of your favorite bands to play your wedding and we’ll create something that the happy couple will truly remember for the rest of their lives, or until they get divorced, hahaha.

You're not all business.  Any news you can share on your main musical projects, Crematorium and The Dolemite Project?

CREMATORIUM is actually finishing writing our next full length record for Prosthetic Records which will be titled “Born of Filth … Cultivated by Swine.” We’ll also be touring around this release as well as finally putting together a video for one of the songs. We’ve also been sitting on some footage that was filmed during our mini-tour with BRUTAL TRUTH in hopes of releasing a DVD of live material as well as the usual band shenanigans that always make it onto these types of things. There will also be a remixed / mash up version of “Testicular” from our The Process of Endtime album done by DJ? ACUCRACK which is a few of the guys from ACUMEN NATION. Expect something insane from these guys! As for THE DOLEMITE PROJECT, we’re working on our first full-length record, which will come out on Spare Change Records as well as a few split 7” records, which will be released on Viable Records. We’ll hopefully be doing some touring as well throughout 2010.

Any other music projects that you're working on?

I’ve actually just got an old project I was doing with Sacha of INTRONAUT back together called 8THDAYEXTINCTION, which is actually where I got the whole Church of the 8th Day moniker from. Sacha and I were doing this band before he was doing INTRONAUT so though it’s a new band to most people it actually has been around in many forms throughout the years. One of those forms was actually just I doing rhythmic style noise and one of the tracks I recorded will be released as a split later this year with ACTUARY. There have been talks between myself and a few other people about starting up some other projects but I feel that the revival of 8DE will be something to watch out for.

Are there any rising local bands we should be checking out?  

There’s always a bunch of local bands that people should be checking out and I always feel like I am going to miss someone when people ask me this question so I know once I see this online I am going to be kicking myself but here’s a few bands that I am really rocking out to right now locally… ANCESTORS, BLACK MATH HORSEMAN, THE DEPTHS, UPSILON ACRUX, RECIPROCAL, SOTHIS, LETUM ASCENSUS, SEPSISM, BEDLAM OF CACOPHONY, RUCKUS, STATIUS and pretty much every local I book on my shows! I usually book them because I like them and not because I just want to make a buck off of them somehow.

As 2009 comes to a close, give us your take on the state of metal in Los Angeles?

I personally think that Metal is strong as a scene right now and though times are tough people are really trying to keep the scene going. I have always said that as a scene we all need to support each other more and draw less dividing lines between all the different genres and come to realize that we’re all trying to get our music out there and play in front of people. I personally want to thank the people who keep supporting the shows as well as the opening / local bands that keep sticking by us through all the changes that we’ve been going through. I guess the overall state of Metal for us in Los Angeles is one of change. It’s weird that what was a whole slogan for our new president has became a mission for Metal but through change comes great things, as long as we all stick it out together and push for a better day…