Desertfest are back to Antwerp this fall for the third edition and with an even more ambitious lineup. Following two years with the finest which the desert have to offer (with big names such as Electric Wizard, Fu Manchu, Brant Bjork, Earth, Goatsnake, Orange Goblin or Bongzilla, among many others), 2016 come with Red Fang, Graveyard and, surprisingly (or not), GOAT headlining a lineup filled with the most exclusive names on this genres.
We took this oportunity to chat with Desertfest Anterwep organizers, mostly Dimitri Vossen but also a bit with the mastermind Wim Leppens, and discover more about this fine festival who are thrilling the psych-stoner-doom fans around europe and the world.
Hi Dimitri. Tell us who you are and what’s your role on Desertfest crew.
I am Dimitri Vossen, I manage all things communication and promotion for the festival. This includes general communication strategy, announcements through our various channels, press contacts and coordinating the socialmedia team during the festival.
Can you define how music came into your life? First as a fan and then as work.
That would be a whole ‘nother story that has little to do with the festival. Let’s just say I was born in a musical family and have been playing and listening to all kinds of music for as long as I can remember. And since I love to read and write as well, it was only inevitable that all this would come together in the work I do for a living.
How came the opportunity to build a Desertfest in Belgium. Why Antwerp and why in October?
All credit has to go to Wim on this one – he has been involved in the Benelux music scene for years, promoting and booking underground bands. Since he is a big fan of stoner, sludge and doom, he jumped on the chance to do an edition of the fest in Belgium. Why in Antwerp? Well, as a resident I’d say it such a cool place it was the best option really.
In your opinion, what Desertfest Belgium have better to offer compared with the other Desertfests?
The cool thing about Desertfest is that every organisation has the opportunity to fill in the concept according to their own taste and preferences. There’s a lot of trust and support, which really allows for an eclectic but strong brand I think. As far as the Belgium edition is concerned, I have the feeling it strikes a nice balance between rockbands with a crossover appeal like Uncle Acid and Goat, scene mainstays like Siena Root and Monkey3, and adventurous choices like Vodun. As such I think it’s a perfect discovery festival that can appeal to any rock fan, not just the stoner incrowd.
What are the main difficulties in building this festival?
As far as my own work is concerned: getting a grasp on the profile of the festival, and converting that into a consistent communication not only to our fans, but the world at large. Also I think I speak for all involved when I say it’s a big challenge getting everything done that needs to be done with the limited time and means we have at our disposal. Luckily we have the support of a great scene behind us, which has been a great motivator throughout and probably the main reason to keep on doing it!
Do you have data on festival attendees origin? Which countries are most represented in the festival? There are people from outside Europe going?
I’d say it is one of the most internationally loved festivals in Belgium, maybe even rivaling Tomorrowland on that one. We see a lot of attendees from the South of Europe, Spain, Portugal and Italy. But last year I’ve met Americans, Australians, quite some Eastern Europeans, Asians... a bit all over the map really.
Besides the headliners (Red Fang, Graveyard and GOAT) you have an incredible group of consecrated bands and others ready to explode. Is it easy to convince all those big bands (in underground scene) going to Desertfest?
Booking a festival like this is also a business venture as much as it is a labour of love. And naturally the bigger the band, the more “business hoops” you have to jump through. But all in all I think this year we’ve managed to pull together an extraordinary combination of names, and all of them show great appreciation that they can be part of the festival.
What are the not so obvious bands in the lineup that you personally think that are going to be a blast?
Watch out for Vodun, a band that’s been on my radar for a few years now and I think we’ve caught them on the brink of their breakthrough. Heavy doom riffs combined with a wailing soul diva – has to be experienced to be believed. What else... I’m a big fan of Ahab who must be the only proponents of the “nautical doom” microgenre together with Graves At Sea. Oh and definitely check out Alkerdeel, a Belgian band with roots in black metal but they’re doing a thing that’s entirely their own. Very intense liveshow too, don’t miss it!
Speaking of which, Desertfest London had this year bets on Post-Metal and an approach to Black Metal. Do you think there is inevitable the opening to another genres or do you think psych-stoner-doom still have a lot of new to discover and offer?
Well, a musical scene is constantly evolving so I think it’s only natural that a festival does too. I’ve noticed the psych-stoner-doom crowd is a pretty eclectic one, and every year when the line-up starts to form I discover new fresh takes on the idea of playing loud and mindexpanding music. Like I said, it’s cool to see how each chapter of Desertfest finds its own vibe and character, and I hope in the future this will be our combined strength – having a strong international brand while offering a broad spectrum of sounds across the different editions.
In the past editions, what was the act that made you proudest on what your are doing?
Wim Leppens: I think Desertfest is all about the communal experience, not about the individuals. Every edition of DF Belgium has had great headliners that draw the crowd, but I’m equally proud of the small bands that get to be discovered by our audience!
In the first edition we had the pleasure to have Black Bombaim in Desertfest Belgium. Can we expect to have another Portuguese band in the nearest future?
There’s always room for quality, so maybe you should tell us which band to go for! We don’t discern between nationalities, we just want the good stuff wherever it comes from.
To end, our typical question. What are you favorites 2016 (or 2015) albums so far?
Dimitri: As far as I’m concerned, the heavy ones I’ve been playing most often are Graves At Sea, Cough and Oranssi Pazuzu. Also some great hiphop has been released this year, Schoolboy Q and Young Thug.
Wim Leppens: My favorite album of the last years has been Windhand’s Grief’s Infernal Flower.
Last message to Portuguese fans who are thinking to go to Desertfest.
Dimitri: Don’t think about it, just do it!
Wim Leppens: Check it out! Belgian beers are strong, so it won’t take you long to get in the right mood. The music will do the rest!
Desertfest Antwerp 2016 happens between October 14th and 16th. Tickets are still available, 105€ for the 3-days-pass, 53€ for the first day single-day-pass (October 14th) and 58€ for the remaining days single-day-pass. More information about the Festival and lineup on official web site or Facebook.
Our live report and photo galleries of Desertfest Belgium 2015 can be found here and you can watch our aftermovie bellow. You can also listen here our dedicated playlist for the upcoming edition.