All Gone Dead, Zeitgeist Zero, and Killing Miranda are among a select number of bands from the contemporary UK scene appearing at this year's Wave Gotik Treffen festival in Leipzig, Germany - while Martin Oldgoth from Colchester's Insanitorium club is one of a handful of DJs representing the UK behind the decks. With interest in the WGT growing in the UK, and, apparently, interest in what the UK has to offer now also growing in Germany, it seemed like a good opportunity fire off some questions to all parties. Let's talk Treffen!
We shall start with a no-brainer question. Why would any UK band want to play the Wave Gotik Treffen?
Here's a bit of history. For many years the UK goth scene was very introspective. Bands more or less stuck with the familiar round of UK scene gigs. If they got lucky, they'd get a booking at an all-dayer in London, or at the Whitby Gothic Weekend - and that counted as the big time. Over the years a handful of bands and DJs managed to expand their horizons beyond the UK circuit, and some have even appeared at the big European festivals (Steve, long-standing DJ at London's Slimelight club, for example, has been a WGT DJ for seven years now). In general, however, the usual UK scene attitude always seemed to be that it was too difficult/expensive/scary to get out of our own home territory.
But I think all this is changing. Something like the WGT is definitely on UK bands' radar these days, in a way that it wasn't a few years ago. Connections are being made that didn't exist before, and more UK-based bands and DJs are getting out there and taking on the world. So, what's behind this new attitude? What has made today's bands think, 'Wave Gotik Treffen? We'll 'ave some of that!' ?
Killing Miranda: Well, we played the WGT in 2000, and despite the chaos of the festival overall [That was the year the then-organisers skipped town with the money] we had a great time, saw some cool bands and had fun in a posh hotel at someone else's expense. We like that. Overall there's many, many reasons to play the WGT but I think that it's the simple appeal of being part of an event that feels dynamic and relevant.
All Gone Dead: WGT is a fantastic event! It is more or less the best festival around nowadays (at least in Europe) and it is a great opportunity for bands to get heard and noticed. We are delighted to have that opportunity in such big festival - we want to spread a message and share a vision. We want to push ourselves and our music forward, and this is the best way to do it - by playing in front of so many people at such impressive event.
Zietgeist Zero: We want to play WGT simply because it is the world's biggest Goth festival. It doesn't get bigger than that, unless you move out of the scene altogether. We've never been one of those bands who want to distance ourselves from the 'G' word, because, after all, its been the only scene that has supported us and accepted our music.
WGT certainly is one of those events that can put unknown bands on the map. Now were being asked to do interviews, send promo packs and CDs to be played on radio shows and in clubs - its certainly has given us a lot of exposure already and we haven't even played there yet.
There seems to be a lot of interest in us simply because we are unknown. Its the novelty of discovering a new band - sometimes in the UK people arent interested in a band for that very reason. Also, coming from Leeds seems to have added an air of exoticness to us, given its history with The Sisters. I think abroad people have a romantic perception of Leeds; they dont realise it is just a normal city, not particularly gothic. Maybe the small town mind in a big city body does help the gothic psyche!
DJ Martin Oldgoth: For a long while for a UK DJ to aim bigger than the Whitby Gothic Weekend was crazy. We were all aware of the WGT, and all that it meant. Some of us went there and raved about it, others dreamed of going 'one day' but nobody ever talked about trying to work there. I mean, who to ask, where to start?
In the UK scene everyone pretty much knows each other and very few people break out to play other countries - the contacts just don't seem to be there. Well, until recently, I suppose: things are getting better. The marvel of the internet has helped us DJs enormously to network but Europe still seemed like another place, far away with a far bigger scene that we could marvel at and wish we were a part of - but how? That old island mentality holding people back!
Well, that brings us neatly to the big practical question. How do you do it? Is it essential to have contacts and connections in Germany in order to get a WGT booking - or indeed to get some attention in Germany generally? How important is it to have someone out there putting feet in doors on your behalf? If any UK bands or DJs came to you and said, 'How do we get the WGT people to sit up and take notice of us?' what would you tell them?
DJ Martin Oldgoth: I've had several other DJs ask me how I pulled this off, and I've told them it's pure talent! But really it's thanks to getting a good reputation with 'the right people'. Right place, right time, and all that stuff.
A couple of years ago the Insanitorium crew helped out The Last Dance with some UK dates, and we've since become kind of unofficial UK tour agents. Their tour manager had 'contacts' and talked about WGT - we joked about us going from DJing at Insanitorium once a month to working the worlds biggest goth festival, a kind of 'fingers crossed but it'll never happen' thing. Then one Friday night I got in from the day job to find an email containing the world's most stupid question (well, that you could ask a goth DJ): 'Would you like a DJ slot at WGT?' The only delay in my replying immediately with a big fat YES was because I had to read it two or three times to make sure it said what I thought it did!
Zeitgeist Zero: Since it was announced that we were playing thats what a lot of our friends have been asking: 'How did you get that, then?' I'll tell you what happened to us, if it can help any other bands out there.
We released our album in January of 2005 and sent promo copies to WGT, plus Sonic Seducer, Virus and Zillo (three German Magazines). Sonic Seducer asked if we wanted to put one of our songs on their cover-mounted CD, and they did a review of the album a few months later.
In the summer I went on holiday to Berlin and met a really nice guy called Marty from a band called Sepulcrum Mentis who works in the Out Of Line shop in the city. We chatted and swapped albums and he got us an interview with Zillo and we got one of our songs on the cover disc. Im sure this helped enormously as it's widely distributed across Europe.
So we don't really have any contacts or connections, we simply pushed ourselves and made ourselves sound wonderful on paper in our press pack. We sent another promo pack to the WGT people around the time of the Zillo interview - I emailed again to let the promoter know and he said 'Well, well see what we can do.' Zillo has a distribution of 40,000 so getting an interview and getting on the CD is pretty good publicity.
Years ago I remember reading an article in a musician's magazine which interviewed the booker at the Marquee about how he decided which new bands to put on. He said that an important part of his job was to pay close attention to the music press so he knew about everyone who was causing a stir. That way, when a band came to him claiming to be the biggest thing since twin ply bog roll, he had some idea if they were telling the truth - if he hadn't heard of them, neither would the punters.
I mention this because one of the things we were told from asking around was that the WGT promoters also put great stock in magazine coverage. Over the last couple of years we took every interview that was offered, from anywhere on the planet, anything that would enable us to get out who we are, what we're about, and to show we mean business. And it's an ongoing process - it doesn't matter how big you've been (and we're not exactly megastars), if you're out of sight you're out of mind. A point that's often made is, why do Coke spend billions of dollars on advertising when everyone on the planet knows about their product by now? Because if they didn't, they wouldn't.
Killing Miranda: Well, as I said, its not the first time we've played and to some extent a six year gap was way too long. We've pushed in past years for it and I think we struck gold this year because of the support we've had from the European scene which was far more positive about our last album than the UK, media-wise in particular.
early on we've tried to get abroad as much as possible and I think we've
now played something like 20 foreign events of a similar type (admittedly
usually much smaller) which is good for an English band. It
does help to know a few people in key places. But WGT is open to bands
on the strength of their material or support. I think they're far less
arsey and elitist than many other events and I think perhaps some people
simply aren't persistent enough. Perhaps
they like some evidence you're vaguely professional, and having a booking
and press agent in our case probably helped, but I can't swear up and
down it did, 'cos I simply dont know.
All Gone Dead: Like in any other situation it is always good to have contacts. However, you have to prove you are worth the effort. We understand we are very lucky to have the opportunity to play at the festival. The advice we can give to other bands is to believe in themselves and go for it without fear. Nothing is impossible!
What do you think of the WGT concept - many gigs, clubs, art events and all kinds of sideshows happening in many different venues all over the city? From a punter's point of view, I like this aspect of it - it's much better than the normal 'lots of bands on one big stage' type of festival, if you ask me. But how does it seem for a band? Would you prefer to be on a big stage in a field somewhere, or does the thought of being in the middle of a whole city of gigs appeal to you?
been wanting this kind of festival (the sort that in all honesty Whitby
should be by now) ever since I got into this scene. In a former life
I was in a touring rhythm and blues band, the highlight of which was
exactly this sort of festival in the jazz and blues scene, in Cork,
Brecon, Edinburgh, and other places. I always loved these festivals
- everything that you get from shorter, single venue festivals in terms
of a big coming together of fans and musicians is magnified exponentially
when a festival gets to take over a town. When playing Cork, for example,
we'd go out there for a week, playing all over the city and networking
and jamming the rest of the time and come back exhausted, barely knowing
what day of the week it was - a good sign of a decent works outing,
I'm sure you'll agree. In such a large environment with roving crowds
of course you have to work harder to be noticed, but we consider that
a good thing. It spurs us on to try even harder. Anyone who's serious
about performing should always want to steal the show (in a good way,
not by knocking other bands or trying to bring them down), whether there's
ten people watching or
All Gone Dead: As previously mentioned WGT is a great event. The fact that it all happens in the middle of a city makes it even better; the city of Leipzig is a beautiful place, full of history and architecture. Regarding the festival - it caters for everybody within the scene really. All the little sub-genres are represented, and on top of that we cant forget the parties with international DJs and all the other events happening within the festival - shopping markets, cinema, theatre, etc. WGT is not just the 'random' kind of festival with one stage and all the rest. The whole city gets transformed into this fantastic madness, and that is what it makes it so special. It brings a lot of diversity.
DJ Martin Oldgoth: I love the idea of being in a city that for just one weekend becomes the perfect place to live, with so many bands, clubs and people - all there to join together and just have fun; it says so much about this scene of ours. Following the WGT it's the World Cup. [Leipzig is hosting some of the World Cup football matches.] Will that pass without fighting between nations? Without fuss? I doubt it.
Given that in Leipzig there will be 160-odd bands clamouring for attention, what can a band do to make an impact at the WGT? Is it a case of festooning Leipzig with flyers, or just concentrating on making the performance itself a good one?
Killing Miranda: We always believe that a band should be judged primarily on its music, not how desperate one is prepared to appear. Our approach has been very thorough, and we're trying a set that breaks some ground compared to what we're usually known for. But I hope you'll see for yourself. Indeed we're taking a risk, but that's what we think WGT is all about. Standing out from the crowd - literally.
All Gone Dead: WGT is the perfect place for networking and meeting new people so the random flyering wont hurt. However, the important part is to give it all on stage! A good performance is what will make the band or break it.
Zeitgeist Zero: Well, given the fact we're packing the bare minimum clothes-wise because of the weight of our equipment, I dont think we'd have room for flyers. I think it's best just to concentrate on putting on the best performance we can. It's better to have people find out they missed a good show, I suppose.
I keep getting paranoid that we're going to get to the airport and the flight will be cancelled or our equipment will get lost. Because it's the biggest show of our career so far it's very easy to get nervous about the logistics - stage nerves haven't started yet, just the 'What if ' nerves. But we're fortunate to be in a good central venue at a decent time of day, which at our level is everything we could have asked for. We're working very hard to make this our best performance ever, and have a few tricks up our sleeve to take this particular show to the next level.
are your plans for after the WGT? Do you see the festival as purely
a one-off experience, or will there be more gigs in Germany (and elsewhere
outside the UK) in the future? Do you think the WGT is a useful event
in terms of getting promoters, magazines, DJs and other suchlike people
interested in the band - is it a good place for some of that old networking
Thanks to small group of DJs and promoters like Cavey Nik opening up the gates to European acts and DJs I think the UK scene is starting to think bigger. We're starting to get noticed. There's a number of UK acts on the WGT bill this year, and not all of them are 'big' bands. It's about time we looked beyond our shores and worked towards becoming a part of this bigger scene. I'd say to other UK DJs and bands - try your luck. Get out there and start talking to people! Look beyond the walls of the UK scene and aim big. There's a world out there beyond our little island, and we deserve to be a part of it... ye gods, I've gone all Braveheart, but you get the point I hope, you can never network too much.
All Gone Dead: Of course we have plans to play in Germany again. So far we have confirmed our gig at Undercover of Darkness festival in Munster in September, and we will also be playing at the Outsider Party in Braunschweig this coming October. We are also currently booking more shows so maybe there will be more gigs in Germany during the fall. Regarding WGT - it is certainly the perfect opportunity for networking and make new contacts. It gives bands the exposure to develop and flourish. And it's a great way to get noticed.
I view the show as a stepping stone that will hopefully lead onto more
shows in mainland Europe. As much as Im looking forward to WGT
I would hate to think that that the festival will be the highlight of
our career and we'll never ever play another European show. My ambition
would to be able to get some funding and tour the continent - world
Killing Miranda: We'll always keep plugging away. Mainly we could use a few more German events this year to capitalise on the WGT, but we may be restricted to the usual three or four foreign events per year. Still, we believe that will change eventually. I hope to use the WGT as a venue to show a side to Killing Miranda that people don't generally recognise. Because that's what we feel is the correct spirit of the WGT - to challenge yourself and the audience. Which sounds marvellously pretentious. But it's true.
For full details about the Wave Gotik Treffen, check the official WGT website.
The UK Leipzig Yahoo Group contains much useful information about the WGT, from a UK perspective.
The Americans In Leipzig group is a a good place to go for English-language WGT info.
Follow this link to join the WGT Livejournal community.
Thanks to All Gone Dead, Rikky of Killing Miranda, Teresa and Kerry of Zietgeist Zero, and Martin Oldgoth for taking time out to talk Treffen with me.
All photos on this page taken from the contributors' own websites and/or Myspace pages, where full credits can be found - exept the live shot of All Gone Dead, which is one of mine.
Thanks also to Cornelius at WGT HQ.
And finally, the really essential information:
If you're going to the WGT this year, maybe we'll meet in Leipzig. If we do, the phrase to remember is: Guten Tag, Onkel Nemesis! Würden Sie einen schwarzbier mögen? Oder zwei?