The Power of the Riff Founder Greg Anderson on the Festival’s History
Greg Anderson knows how to throw a festival. He also knows how to fuck up your hearing while setting the (often slow) tempo for metal’s sounds to come. “I always thought putting labels on bands was really cheap and somewhat belittling,” Anderson waxes enthusiastically from the office of his record label, Southern Lord. “This isn’t ‘This is Just Hardcore’, this is just great music.”
With his partner and co-curator Sam James Velde, Anderson is gearing up for the third installment of the The Power of the Riff East and West Coast festivals to be held Aug. 11 at LA’s Echo and Echoplex complex and on Sept. 1 and 2 at Club Warsaw in Brooklyn, N.Y.
“We have a lot more bands on it this year and a lot more newer bands,” says Greg.
Hoax and Texan thrash heroes Power Trip will be playing alongside the likes of the better-known Gaza and Despise You in L.A. In New York, the likes of Dead in the Dirt will be take the stage amidst Power of the Riff returnees Pentagram and Winter. “We’re going to change up the schedule a bit this year so that some of the bigger bands are playing earlier in the day so people will hopefully come and check out some of the newer bands.”
Asked about the bands he’s probably most excited to see: The debut of Cali-Grinders Noothgrush with new vocalist Dino of Dystopia fame gets a thumbs up. The new line-up of long running grind pioneers Repulsion, now boasting Cretin‘s Marissa Martinez on guitar, is also one of Anderson’s personal picks.
Where The Power of the Riff kicked off in 2010 with the return of the legendary Corrosion of Conformity, in 2012, the old school still gets plenty of respect. Off!, with former Circle Jerk Keith Morris (“They haven’t disappointed me yet,” says Greg) and Oxnard’s recently reactivated crossover-ists Dr. Know (“A lot of bands come back – they came back heavier!”) dot the L.A. lineup while Brooklyn gets Portland heavyweights Poison Idea, Negative Approach and NYC’s Hardcore institution Agnostic Front.
Agnostic Front? You’d think they’d be more likely to play a Bridge 9 Records festival! “I loved Victim In Pain, United Blood, Cause for Alarm,” Anderson gushes. “They never came up to Seattle (where Greg cut his musical teeth playing in hardcore bands False Liberty and Brotherhood) They were definitely on our list and it happened that they were playing their 30th Anniversary tour as a band so we got them on the New York show. We’re really excited about it.” Whether or not Southern Lord is issuing AF guitarist Vinnie Stigma‘s next solo effort is anyone’s guess.
Not to be outdone, Anderson himself is donning his robes and taking the stage in his own drone ensemble Sunn O))) for both East and West Coast editions of the festival. The L.A. show will be helmed simply by Anderson and his longtime cohort Stephen O’ Malley. The East Coast will find the two joined onstage by former Mayhem frontman Atilla Csither and keyboardist Tos Nieuwenhuizen. It will be the Southern Lord mainman’s second time playing his own fest, the first time in 2010 with reunited doomsters Goatsnake.
Watch “Aghartha” Video from Sunn O)))
Is it a case of the festival’s founder father putting his own personal stamp on the proceedings? “That’s part of it for sure,” Greg admits. “We [Sunn O)))] were playing some shows in Europe, we were having so much fun, we were like ‘Let’s do this.” Plus, we’ve been talking about playing some shows with Off! for a while now. Both bands have a lot of respect for each other. It’ll be the fast vs. slow battle!”
Where 2010’s Power of the Riff was free to fans courtesy of scene-conscious sneaker company Converse, and now that car manufacturer Scion has become such a major supporter of the underground metal scene, it’s surprising that this year’s festival is completely sponsorship free. “It’s kinda like crack-cocaine, the first hit is free. Then they start charging for it,” laughs Greg.
“The whole sponsorship thing has been a really helpful thing and they were heavily involved with the Southern Lord tour. The whole thing with us is that we try and not rely on that. It’s not part of our aesthetic to begin with. It goes against the DIY aesthetic that we have with this. It’s been a pretty incredible thing. It’s almost Twilight Zone-ish with a car company helping all these super underground bands and labels.”
Watch “Home of the Grave” Video from Black Breath
Like a small-scale Mayhem Festival for Metal hipsters, The Power of the Riff hit the road earlier this Summer with a full-blown U.S. tour headlined by Black Breath with Swedish crusties Martyrdod, mega-phetamine punks, Burning Love and Enabler. The tour was joined along the by the likes of Italy’s The Secret, Noothgrush and Power Trip.
Anderson took the reins when it came to booking the tour through his own DIY channels. “It was a raging success,” says Anderson who cops to micro-managing the tour. “You call up the promoter in Atlanta and you’re the guy that owns the record label and you’re looking to book some of your bands — it’s way more personal.” Greg does cop to the fact that it may have irked a few of the bands’ booking agents. “They miss the mark in a lot of ways. I think that it’s a ‘plug and play’ situation. They have their own contacts in each city and that works for them. It may not always be the right promoter or right venue for the band.”
So if Greg and Sam were to put together their dream line-up, what would it be?
“Cro-Mags original line-up would be great,” states Greg. “But that would probably never happen. We would really like to have Judge but that will probably never happen. Crowbar, actually. We were hoping have them this year but the schedules didn’t work out. Then, we would have to get into a time machine for some other bands – Matt Lukin era Melvins. Screaming Life era Soundgarden.”
Watch “We Gotta Know” Video from Cro-Mags
There’s no denying that Power of the Riff has developed into its own brand. With a successful festival and tour to boast of, what’s next? A Power of the Riff stage at the Mayhem Festival? Greg laughs at the notion (at this point). “It’s really about celebrating and enjoying underground, heavy music regardless if it’s punk rock, hardcore, death metal. It’s not about the genre. It’s about the riff.”
The Power of the Riff will go down on the following dates:
Venue: Echo/Echoplex – Los Angeles, Calif.
SUNN 0))), OFF!, Dr.Know, Repulsion, Noothgrush, Xibalba, Eagle Twin, Power Trip, Ancestors, Alpha & Omega, Gaza, DNF, Retox, Love Below, Avon Ladies, Cops, Hordes, Xaphan, Hoax, Despise You, Nausea (CA), Bio Crisis
Doors @ Noon and tickets are available here.
09/01/2012 & 09/02/2012
Venue: Warsaw – Brooklyn, N.Y.
Saturday September 1st:
Pentagram, Agnostic Front (performing Victim In Pain & United Blood), Poison Idea, Negative Approach, Xibalba, Alpha & Omega, Power Trip
Sunday September 2nd
SUNN 0))), Winter, Repulsion, Coffinworm, Double Negative, Salvation, Dead In The Dirt, +1 more tba
Tickets are available here.