Interview: Deadpunk [May 2015]

By Conor Mackie

The Deadpunk all-dayer is happening once again in Bristol on the 9th of May. With bands like Off With Their Heads, Beach Slang and the UK’s very own Great Cynics and Bangers (among many more) gracing the stage, it’s sure to be one of the highlights of the UK punk scene in 2015. We caught up with Dave Brent, long time drummer, promoter and beard grower for a quick chat about Deadpunk, all-dayers in general and his favourite UK bands.

First off, could you just let us know a little bit about the history of the Deadpunk all-dayer – when it started, who came up with the idea, how you got involved, how many there have been – that sort of thing?

So for a while Matt Otridge (co-runner of Deadpunk) and I had been chatting about the idea of doing some kind of mini festival type event. The idea would come up every so often but we’d never run with it. Then in 2012 we got offered some rad bands off of the back of Reading/Leeds Festival and with the new venue (in Bristol, The Exchange) opening up we figured, fuck it, why not.

Having a majority of UK acts was something I was keen on, I’d been over to Fest (in Gainesville, Florida) a couple of times and the main thing was the hang out atmosphere of a bunch of rad people in the same place for the same reasons. I don’t think we have or will ever have anything like the appeal or awesomeness of Fest but the concept of a DIY event pulling people together was something I was gunning for. Another reason for the event is to give a bunch of bands a chance to play to a big crowd – touring the UK can be a struggle and having a one day event can really focus people’s attentions.

We’re into our fourth year: we’ve moved things up a bit this year for selfish reasons (I’m getting hitched in June) but other than a date change it’s much the same vibe as before.

As a promoter, you’ve put on a ton of shows. How does organising an all-dayer compare to running a normal show? Do you ever get to enjoy yourself and watch any bands?

The principles are pretty much the same: you book the venue, find bands, advertise, hope and pray people show up. The organisation level in preparation is ramped up because of the number of bands playing but one thing that remains the same is the awesome support of the people who work/run The Exchange & The Stag and Hounds. They are so accommodating with pretty much anything I throw at them, it’s awesome.

For the most part I get to enjoy a fair bit of the day. Unfortunately last year I had to miss both Above Them & Apologies, I Have None which sucked but needs must. I hope PJ (ex-Apologies, I Have None bassist/current punk barber at Sandyman Chop Shop, Exeter) will forgive me for that.

What are the benefits of a one day, multistage festival like Deadpunk as compared to a weekend festival? Could you ever see all-dayers replacing weekend festivals? Or is there a space for both?

It’s one day, so I guess all your eggs are in one basket. For me, the adrenaline rush is awesome and the day just happens and I find myself in recovery the following day. I don’t think one day events could replace weekend events – they are just very different things. Personally, I like the size and scale of doing it all in one day. If it works it works, if it doesn’t: I don’t have a second day to handle!

Saying all that, last year we started to do a small warm up show the night before which we’re doing again this year; so you never know, it might expand sometime.

How vital do you think all-dayers are to the punk scene in general? And the UK specifically?

I don’t think they are vital as such, but I do think that, if they are done well, they can be a great way to showcase what this country has to offer whilst providing an ace day for people to network and meet like-minded people.

UK bands can often get missed or struggle simply because of the sheer number of bands trying to tour. The Deadpunk all-dayer is a great chance for me to get a bunch of bands I like down for one day and show them off to people. The line-up is pretty much entirely bands and people I’ve met through touring and who I want to hang out with. You could easily argue it’s a really self-indulgent event set up to save me from having to travel outside of Bristol to catch up with people.

The Deadpunk all-dayer is for people aged 14+ (although under-18s need to be accompanied by an adult). How important to you is it to make sure punk shows are available to teenagers? Do you think there needs to be more of an effort all around the UK to find 14+ spaces or even all ages venues?

It’s really important to be able to offer that experience to as many ages as possible. On a personal level, music has definitely been a major factor in keeping me going over the years. Often it can be hard to make shows 14+ because of the spaces that are available, but it’s important to always try as hard as you can to keep music available to all.

I think on the whole the punk scene tries really hard to make things all ages as much as possible. Sometimes it doesn’t work out but the general intent is definitely there.

What advice would you give to promoters thinking of putting on their own all-dayer?

Make sure you’ve put on a couple of ‘normal’ gigs first. You’ll certainly benefit from the experiences you get from just putting on gigs because you’ll be far better equipped to handle it if/when things go wrong.

Plan properly. Think about what you want to do, consider what else is already going on in your area, be honest with people, work with people you trust and don’t go bigger than you can handle too fast!

Who are you most looking forward to seeing at Deadpunk? Who would be your dream band to headline (active or defunct)?

This is a tough one as pretty much the whole line up is a friend in some way! I’d say Timeshares and Beach Slang as I haven’t seen those guys in a long time and I’m stoked to see Beach Slang play for the first time. There are a couple of new bands made of old friends playing like Bloodbuzz and Quietman and I’m stoked to see Petrol Girls again. For me, it’s about the catch-ups and hang-outs though. So many rad people come out of the woodwork each year, it’s awesome to see who shows up.

Dream band to headline? Christ I dunno, Five Knuckle would be pretty mint but that’ll never happen. I always hope that schedules will work out and one of the Latterman family bands will be around to play, so Iron Chic or RVIVR. Hopefully Calvinball will someday make a return, gutted I never got them to play before they called it. (Conor’s note – Awwwww, thanks Dave!)

What do you think about bands who break up only to reunite in less time than many bands wait in between albums (as we’ve seen with Alexisonfire this week)? Is it just a marketing ploy or is it something more genuine?

I’ve never really listened to Alexisonfire so can’t comment on them, but for some bands it can be a chance to do things they never achieved before. Look at Refused, for example. I dunno – if it’s what people want to do then do it. Both Boysetsfire and H2O came back after extended absences with awesome records, so clearly it does work for some people.

All I will say is that if you’re going to reform, give it 100% and for genuine reasons. If you change your minds and want to reform, cool, but don’t do it as a business model, that just sucks.

Lastly, the UK punk scene is pretty great right now, with new bands like Doe appearing and bands like Muncie Girls set to release their first full length this year. Who do you think are the most exciting bands in the UK at the minute? What would you like to see UK bands doing more of?

It’s pretty sweet for sure; I’m stoked to see what happens with the new Great Cynics record (I Feel Weird, out on the awesome Specialist Subject records on April 13th), that’s got some tunes on it! I’d like to see more bands challenging gender divisions in our scene as well as the outside world; I think we’re at a turning point and people are calling out a lot more of the ingrained sexism/misogyny that seems to go along with being involved in music, but we’ve still a fair way to go. Bands are in a strong position, no matter how their band is made up, of calling out and supporting people.

This was great, thanks Dave! We’ll see you in Bristol on the 9th May!

For tickets for the Deadpunk Bank Holiday Special, head here. For the event page, head here.

Try these three interviews

Interview: Greywind [Reading 2016]

Interview: Arcane Roots [Reading 2016]

Interview: Trash Boat [Reading 2016]