Festival Booker and Promoter Recounts Organizing Festival & Describes Events' Make Up
Band Photo: Exhumed (?)
Aaron "Goregrowler" Mendiola owns his own concert promotions and booking company, Goregrowler Entertainment. While Mendiola tirelessly works throughout the year to bring San Antonio the best in the metal underground, no event presents as big of a challenge or elicits as much gratification as his Goregrowler’s Ball Festival. After a year of planning and promoting, Mendiola can finally take a deep breath, step back and admire his accomplishment…then, it’s back to work.
As a proud sponsor of this head banging extravaganza, Metal Underground.com has chronicled the festival’s news as it breaks. We have given the scoop on the festival’s headliners and co-headliners—Suffocation, Exhumed and Hirax, as well as announcements of new additions such as Phobia and Brutal Truth. Now, it is time to give the floor to the man, Aaron Mendiola, who makes The Goregrowler’s Ball possible.
Darren Cowan (Rex_84): First of all, give our readers a little history about your festival. I understand it started as a birthday bash.
Aaron Mendiola: Yeah man, back in 2007, I was turning thirty, so I threw myself a hell of a birthday show! I got 30 bands, most of which were local Texas bands that featured friends of mine throughout my musical career in the underground metal scene. It was a two day event that featured headliners, Devourment, on one day, and a reunion show for one of my old bands, Putrilage, on the other. It was a hell of a lot of fun. We even had an "emo kid" piñata filled with candy. Certain candies had tickets wrapped around them to win some free merch from some of the vendors at that fest. I asked the crowd if they enjoyed themselves and if they wanted another year of this same event, and so it began...
Cowan: The first festival featured only Texas bands. Since that time, especially this year, you have nailed down a bill of international bands. What have you done or learned to help make this festival a major force in the American festival circuit?
Mendiola: Yes, I always try to include Texas bands, as I believe these bands do deserve a chance for recognition. I understand that some of these bands play a lot locally, but it's just different to see them in an environment like a festival, you know. Every year since the first, I have tried to get a few national bands. Throughout every year we have brought down bands that have never been to Texas, and all have had such a great time down here. I have seen the rise of festivals in the underground scene. It seems there are death fests in every state, and every country. It is all a learning experience. I even learned a few new things this year, which will hopefully help me in the future. Sure there are mistakes made on our side, as well as on the talent side, so it all works together and helps create this massive event. I just wish the regular metal fan would be in our shoes for a day, and see what we go through, so they understand how bad things happen. Ha ha!
Cowan: This year’s lineup has undergone several changes, as do most large-scale festivals. How has your attitude/mind set changed over the years in dealing with cancellations?
Mendiola: When I put together a lineup of over fifty bands, I know there will be cancellations. There are cancellations for a variety of reasons. I do get hurt and a bit ticked off when cancellations occur, no matter what the reason is, even if it's on our end that had to cancel a band for whatever reason. I know there are fans out there of each band, so when that band cancels, there is always an explanation needed as to why they canceled. Then there are the rumors, the bad talks, etc. that occur with every cancellation. This is why there are all types of bands on a festival, from local all the way through national headliners. It's all part of the business, so I have come to understand that over time. We try our hardest to keep the lineup the same, but when an event like this is booked over a year in advance, things look so much better in let's say January. Then comes November, and there is the reality of financial problems, transportation problems, job issues, family emergencies, or just any life changing event. So bands will cancel. It's the nature of the game.
Cowan: Please give a brief summary of some of the bands who have cancelled and their replacements?
Mendiola: Well, I mean from the beginning there have been a good number of cancellations, most noticeably was the headliner, Aborted. They took a great opportunity to tour in Europe with Decapitated, so we wished them well on that tour for sure! No hard feelings! We went out and grabbed Brutal Truth as their replacement. Most of the cancellations always come within weeks, even days of the event, so we have lost the following bands—Gravehill, Derketa, Malignancy, Maax, Drogheda, Lair of the Minotaur, Gorematory, and Face of Ruin. We didn't replace every slot though, but we did add some good quality bands within the past few weeks such as Phobia, Hot Graves, Images of Violence, Birth A.D., Ingurgitate, & Plutonian Shore. All the bands playing are still great, and none, I repeat none will disappoint.
Cowan: What does the new schedule for headline acts look like?
Mendiola: That really hasn't changed. Exhumed is headlining Friday night. Brutal Truth and Hirax headline Saturday night, and Suffocation headlines on Sunday. Phobia was added as direct support for Suffocation on Sunday though, but really there has been no change to the headliner schedule.
Cowan: What bands, in particular, are you excited to watch and have as part of your festival?
Mendiola: Shit man, all of them! We personally pick these bands, so they all have something exciting to watch. I know that these bands will leave the town in rubble and bodies broken!
Cowan: Some of the artists will be joining other bands for special performances. Please tell our readers about these performances.
Mendiola: Bloodsoaked is the only band making a special performance. Usually Bloodsoaked performs as a one man band, but he [Peter Hasselbrack] was to have a special live performance which included Mike De Leon (Disfigured/Flesh Hoarder) and Seth Van De Loo (Severe Torture/Centurian). Unfortunately, things with Seth did not end up happening in time, so Bloodsoaked will still play with a drum machine, but Mike will still be joining Peter on stage for this performance.
Cowan: Even though Goregrowler 5 features a national and international cast of major players in the extreme metal field, you still include numerous Texas bands. Please tell our readers a little about these bands and why these groups are Texas necessities?
Mendiola: As stated before, I am a local metal head, and I love to include the local bands on such an event. The funny thing is this though; I read forums, or websites, and it's all usually the same thing "Who are these guys,” or "wow this line up is full of nobody's,” etc. I hate that shit! I am giving the local bands a chance to perform to a large audience, and share the stage with some of these big hitters. I wish people would take the time to look a band up and listen to them before jumping to conclusions just because they have never heard them before. Here are all the Texas bands performing this year—Hod, Vaginal Bear Tap, Flesh Hoarder, Emperial Massacre, Pillcrusher, Funeral Rites, Vex, Eviscerated, Engaged in Mutilating, Baring Teeth, Disfigured, Severance, Grotesque Formation, Uncleansed, Birth A.D., Ingurgitate, Images of Violence, Viral Load, & Nokturnel. All are really great bands, and some have gained respect and made a name for theirselves in the metal scene. I recommend checking them all out! Without bands like this, the scene here in TX wouldn't be the same. They have all helped create the awesomeness that is Texas Underground Metal!
Cowan: The Goregrowler’s Ball was initially a death metal festival. While death metal still dominates the lineup, you have incorporated many bands from other styles. Are you trying to branch out and bring in a diversified crowd?
Mendiola: I call The Goregrowler's Ball “The Premier METAL Gathering of South Texas.” If it's metal, and I like it, they will play! I have had death metal, black metal, grindcore, doom metal, d-beat, crust and noise. Maybe one day a good ‘ole fashioned power metal band will grace the stage at GGB! Ha! Ya never know! But seriously, my heart is in death metal, but I have been a fan of all kinds of metal, so I've always tried to have it all. That way, the person who is a death metal fan will learn about other styles. If they want to come see bands like Suffocation, then they will also be introduced to bands like Hot Graves who is playing the same day, or Pillcrusher (doom). Don't sell yourself short in life. If you are a music fan, then like music, not just one band or one style. Open up your mind; it won't hurt!
Cowan: Who are some of the non-death metal bands at Goregrowler’s Ball 5?
Mendiola: There are different forms such as death/thrash, doom, thrash metal, d-beat, black metal, grindcore. These bands are not considered to be straight death metal....Brutal Truth, Hirax, Goatwhore, Impiety, Havok, Phobia, Deceased, Noisear, Hot Graves, Hellwitch, Hod, Birth A.D., Infernal Damnation, Baring Teeth, Vex, Funeral Rites, Pillcrusher, Vaginal Bear Trap. As you can see, there is a good variety!
Cowan: This year, you moved the festival to Korova. Why did you make this move and how does the move enhance the festival experience?
Mendiola: Moving the fest each year was not always by choice. The first year it was at The Roadhouse Saloon, which was a small building that had a bar and a huge outside area in the back where the stage was, so it was an outside event the first year, which was very cool. That venue closed down, so I had to move it in 2008, which was held at The White Rabbit, and obviously being one of the most known venues in this town, that was my most unsuccessful year to date. I wanted to go back there to give it another shot in 2009, but the venue was already booked and they wouldn't budge, so I moved it to Rock Bottom. That was a smaller venue we had here, but it was an all around good feel to the fest that year. Unfortunately, they shut down as well. In 2010, originally the fest was to be held at Zombies, which was a new large sized venue but they closed down the big location and moved to a smaller location way later, so I had to look for a new venue. The only venue that was open to take the fest was Bonds 007, but some sacrifices had to be made. I had to cut a forty-band roster down to just twenty. So in 2010, it was my smallest fest but still a lot of fun. Now here we are in 2011, and after working on such a massive line-up, I had to find a venue with enough size to handle this show. All other options were too small, booked already, too expensive, or not willing to work with me on the times I needed the venue to be open. I chose The Korova. This club has held its fair share of metal shows within the past year. We are able to use the outside parking lot for stage two and the inside for the main stage, so it is all looking good so far.
Cowan: You have your own band, Engaged in Mutilating, which will be playing the fest. How instrumental has this band been in gaining contacts for this fest? Have you opened or toured for any of the bands on the bill?
Mendiola: Of course, I am going to put my own band on my own event! Ha! But one thing about me is that when I run Gorergrowler Entertainment throughout the year, I don't do it for personal gain, so there are a lot of touring shows I book that I don't even consider putting my own band on. Now I might have put us on day three opening for Suffocation, but we are playing at 4:00pm, so I am not going to put us as direct support or anything like that. I know there are bands more worthy of this than us, but I do love playing! We have shared the stage with a few of the bands on the bill, but mostly in other fest surroundings.
Cowan: Engaged in Mutilating debuted new material opening for Immolation. Where are you at in the writing process for your new album?
Mendiola: We had a great time playing the Immolation show. It was a good vibe all around that night for us. I thought we had a good show despite some technical difficulties! Our writing process has been slow, and we do have a couple of songs for the new album but we don't play them live yet. We have only unleashed one new song, and the rest of our set still consists of our debut album, "Population Zero.”
Cowan: How can our readers obtain tickets?
Mendiola: Right now all tickets have been taken down, and they can purchase them at the door, the day of show. We had tickets online for quite some time, and at a few local outlet stores in San Antonio, but we chose Halloween night to be the last night of ticket sales for the presale prices. There are plenty of tickets available, so please come out to the show and get your ticket at the door. You will have a blast!
Cowan: Do you have anything you would like to add?
Mendiola: I first of all want to thank you Darren for the interview. What a Great opportunity! I want to also thank all the fans out there who have been supportive of everything I do for the metal scene. I have gained a lot of friends in bands, and in fans alike. It is my second family, and I couldn't be The Goregrowler without every singe one of them. See you all at the fest!
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