Deep in the heart of the Windy City, the heart of American industrial beats strong as David Schock invites us to the fourth installment of the ColdWaves festival.
An InterView with David Schock of ColdWaves and WTII Records
By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
The death of Jamie Duffy – one of Chicago’s most revered sound men and musicians – in 2012 shook the city’s underground music and the whole of the American industrial/rock community to the core. Since then, Jason Novak, Duffy’s partner in crime and head of the Cracknation imprint and production studio, and David Schock, co-founder of WTII Records, have commemorated Duffy’s life and the music he loved and helped nurture with the annual ColdWaves festival. Bringing together a plethora of bands, past and present, and even resurrecting several acts that had long since disbanded, ColdWaves has been steadily growing in size and stature to become one of the country’s most anticipated and poignant events; in cooperation with the Hope for the Day charity devoted to suicide prevention, the festival has been held in the heart of the Windy City – the place that in many ways gave birth to American industrial music – to make it as much a celebration of Chicago as it is of Duffy’s life and music. Now entering its fourth installment, this year’s event marks a turning point for ColdWaves as an even wider variety of industrial styles are introduced, from the apocalyptic dirge of Godflesh to the harrowing ambient darkness of Lustmord, to the rocking alternative electro textures of Pop Will Eat Itself and the proto-EBM stylings of High Functioning Flesh, to name but a few. Speaking to ReGen
about the festival’s success up to now, David Schock let us in on just what goes into amassing an event of such magnitude and emotional power, along with a few hints about future plans and how much more the industrial community has to look forward to.
ColdWaves is now entering its fourth installment. Other than the financial considerations – which we won’t discuss, unless you’d like to – what have you found to be the most consistently challenging aspect of putting on this festival? How satisfied are you with your ability to overcome those challenges each year?
Schock: We think that the hardest aspect of putting together the ColdWaves festival each year is probably maintaining a balance between assembling a lineup that truly would be cause for people to travel from around the world and yet also staying true to the memory of Jamie Duffy, all the while expanding the reach of the charity that we work with, Hope for the Day’s, message. It’s very easy for everyone (ourselves included) to get excited about the bands that are performing each year, but we feel that sometimes the reason why we are putting these festivals on gets lost in all the noise. As far as if we are satisfied with the results? Yes, we have been, but this year you will see an even larger effort put into getting Hope for the Day’s message out with banners, pamphlets, in venue activities, and also more of a presence of the Jamie Duffy silhouette throughout the venue.
ColdWaves has also garnered a reputation for being an outlet for many reunions and returns to activity for bands that haven’t been seen or heard from in years, although I’m sure that’s not necessarily by design. Can you tell us more about how you’ve approached this particular aspect of the festival (i.e. selecting which bands will play, how those reunions came about for ColdWaves, etc.)?
: It’s funny that you asked if this is by design – in some ways, yes it is. We have come to realize that we do have enough pull now to reunite bands for a ‘one-off’ performance, which so far, has led to many of those acts becoming active again. Having those unique performances in a lineup should be cause for many people to want to come out to a ColdWaves festival and to make it a destination festival every year. We have a standing offer each year to about eight ‘non-active/defunct’ bands that we keep trying to reunite for a performance; I won’t go into the list, but every year we ask them and every year they decline, although I do believe that we are starting to wear some of them down a bit, so I guess I would say stay tuned because yes, they are probably one of the bands that you are wishing would reunite for a ColdWaves performance.
Since the second year, ColdWaves has had a two-night format, with each night having a different focus – usually the first night is more of the rock/guitar-driven sounds, while the second is more electronic (generally speaking). How successful do you feel this format has been in appeasing audiences?
: Your question is one that when planning out the ColdWaves festival every year, Jason Novak and I go round and around with each other. You have to remember that by nature, we are both ‘guitar’ guys and not only do we love the metal genre but so did Jamie, so I don’t think that will ever go away as it’s too much of a part of us and what we love. Could the format change? Yeah it could, and it’s something we evaluate each year, but realistically, it’s more of a flow thing or even in some cases, it’s a practical backline issue. If we only have a few bands that need a drum kit, why not put them all on one night instead of dragging it back and fourth over the course of 12-14 bands? We actually take a lot of pride in that for the past three years, we have run on schedule for every act, if not even a few minutes early. Having a professional reputation even with something as small as proper set times goes a long way when trying to secure larger and larger acts. Also, if you were just trying to mix a night of Prong into Leaether Strip into Freezepop, we just don’t think something like that would draw the ‘casual’ fan to the festival and instead would drive them away. So we try to have at least some aspects of the final lineups relate to each other for cohesiveness and casual appeal if that makes sense.
This year seems much darker in tone with a great number of rather doomy and more apocalyptic sounds coming from Godflesh, Author & Punisher, Lustmord, and even the resurgence of Lead into Gold. To what would you attribute this shift, or was it even a consideration?
: One of the greatest compliments that we receive is that people feel we do a very nice job of ‘curating’ this event and that the bands blend seamlessly into each other and how much care and the passion that went into choosing these bands, their final order and visual aesthetics. We do feel that in the past, we have done a nice job of assembling the final lineups in ways that compliment each other and also flow smoothly. This year, we knew we wanted Godflesh as one of the Friday headliners from the minute we decided on putting together ColdWaves IV. But instead of trying to hammer six or seven ‘industrial/rock or metal’ bands on the bill that may just not have felt natural together, we decided to go the opposite direction and go more drone, dark ambient, and experimental. As a side note, that is actually what our personal tastes in music have been as of late, so it was pretty easy to grab some of our favorite artists. Is it a little bit darker than one might expect? Yes it is, but man we think we nailed it for sure on Friday night and people are not going to be disappointed. It’s going to be a heavy audio/video experience for sure and one not to be missed.
On the other hand, the second night still seems to retain the more electronic focus with Front Line Assembly, Pop Will Eat Itself, Severed Heads, etc. As well, ColdWaves has been featuring up-and-coming talents, several of which have a distinctly old school punk/EBM approach (i.e. Youth Code last year, High Functioning Flesh, HŮMΔN ŦRΔFFIC, etc.). Speaking both for your role in WTII Records and as one of the heads of ColdWaves, what are your thoughts on the current wave of younger bands taking on this mantle? What do you feel is the potential for this resurgence of the older styles to lead into newer developments and take the genre in other directions than it has before?
: Lots of great questions being asked in this last inquiry. Let’s start like this; we believe that it is important to have a blend of new and old, young and experienced bands together simply not just to help draw fans but also to increase ‘genre’ awareness. How many people went to ColdWaves III simply to see Front 242 and had not seen an ‘industrial’ show in 15-20 years and then left knowing exactly who ΔAimon, Youth Code, or 3TEETH were? I’m guessing a good amount, and odds are, after not listening to their CDs or LPs for many years, these people not only dusted them off but now have gotten excited about the entire scene again and are now seeking out these new acts. There is a new breath of life right now and the ‘industrial’ scene’s arrow is pointing up again. Look at all of the mainstream attention some of these bands are getting from media outlets such as Pitchfork
, Rolling Stone
, etc. I do want to take a second and broach the subject of how these younger bands get on the bill and how we decide to choose them as I have seen a lot of negative comments or venom being thrown in their direction every year that the lineups get announced. As part of WTII Records, I know about, am friends with, or just follow just about every single band in the country, so odds are no matter how obscure a band is, I have at least checked them out before. When choosing these younger bands, we consider a lot of things including reputation and what they can bring to the lineups. I was a huge fan boy of ΔAimon in years past just as I am a huge supporter of HŮMΔN ŦRΔFFIC this year. Is it scary for us to put, in some cases, ‘raw talent’ in front of 1000+ people? Sure, but they have all risen to the occasion and have blown people away. I think High Functioning Flesh and HŮMΔN ŦRΔFFIC are some of the ‘don’t miss’ acts this year.
Besides the usual two days of the festival, there is also the kickoff and post-parties, with this year’s kickoff featuring Acumen performing Transmissions from Eville in its entirety, Rabbit Junk, and Die Sektor. What would you say is the potential for ColdWaves to expand further (i.e. additional nights, other features, etc.)?
: We are trying to really figure out the best way to give people a true ‘festival’ experience rather than just seeing 12-16 bands every year. We have tried some things in the past that were successful and some that were maybe not so successful in doing that, but it doesn’t stop us from trying out new things each year. This year, we secured a food sponsor in Kuma’s, which is located just a few miles away from the venue and is right next to the main hotel and they will be doing a special burger-of-the-month in September to give people a ‘taste’ of the ColdWaves experience. We have brought back the WaxTrax! pop-up store again and have added in-and-out ability from the venue. We have secured the bar located next to the venue where people can sit down for a few minutes during the fest (since it’s all standing room) and watch the sets on large screen TVs and we have Kuma’s setting up food tents for people in the parking lot between the venues. We always toss around the ideas of trying to expand to three days, more vendors, more after-parties, unique guest DJ’s every year, but sometimes logistics just get in the way. Last year, we were able to record all of the live sets of the performers and make them available for people to purchase and this year, while it’s not quite confirmed yet, there is a strong chance we will be doing more of the same. It’s no secret that we are trying to work towards a model where the ColdWaves festival becomes a travelling festival of sorts in the upcoming years. We are getting close to that model and I don’t think people realize that Jason Novak, Cracknation, and ColdWaves have been main sponsors of the three Front 242 dates last year and the additional Severed Heads/Pop Will Eat Itself dates this year. We want to have Chicago always be the main dates, but we are looking to expand the size and scope of ColdWaves and Hope for the Day’s message by maybe branching out to six or seven additional cities each year where we bring three-to-four bands to do the ‘circuit,’ but then supplement them with additional regional/local talent. Not quite a reality as of yet, but something we are working towards.
Anything we’ve not covered that you’d like to discuss and let people know about?
: First off I wanted to thank you for your time Ilker and then I wanted to say that 2015 has been once of the worst years for many people may just be an understatement. Everywhere we turn, it seems as if one of our friends or family is suffering with many of them right under our noses. You will often hear me talk about the WTII family or Jason and I referring to the ColdWaves family and the truth is that is not just lip service. We belong to a community of like-minded people who have like problems and issues. If you or anyone you know is suffering right now, please reach out and talk to someone. If someone you know is trying to talk to you, please listen to what they are trying to say. If you haven’t heard from someone lately and are worried, please check in with them and drop them a text, e-mail, or phone call. Everyone is trying to deal with their struggles on their own, but if we opened up and reached out to others in our ‘industrial’ community, that struggle gets just a little easier as you’ll find you aren’t the only one going through it. It doesn’t matter if its drug addiction, alcohol abuse, a breakup, separation, or divorce. you could be suffering from a death of a friend, spouse, or family pet; you might be bullied or have faced abuse or even just struggling with unemployment or illness. It doesn’t matter. Just please reach out to someone to talk about your problems. It can and will make a difference.
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