Interviews

Hardcore Spirit – charging the energy

The recent COMEBACK KID / MELEKH / BROTHERS IN BLOOD / CEDRON show that took place at Mixtape5 venue in Sofia, Bulgaria served as a perfect pretext to deliver more coverage on Bulgarian hardcore punk scene, presented in my March 2014 interview with Sven from BROTHERS IN BLOOD. This time I am handing over my interrogation duties to Vania from Leave Something Witchy (LSW) Promotions, who has teamed up with Rostislav Bakalov, the mainman behind HC Spirit, a local webzine and booking machine, to tell his story and charge you with some postivie energy.

Founded in 2003, HC Spirit a portal for hardcore punk and ska music and culture that has been passing around loads of information about upcoming concerts, festivals, Bulgarian bands, other artists visiting the country, reviews of concerts and albums, photo coverages of live events, interviews, articles, free music, etc.

What was supposed to be a show report, turned into a nice feature about HC Spirit, that I am more than pleased to present you in the pages of IDIOTEQ. Read all about the passion, challenges and diffculties of DIY booking and reveal more about Bulgarian punk scene. The full interview is available below.

HC Spirit

Featured photo by Sheitan Zine.

The first  thought my tortured mind produced while I was agreeing to write a report about a hardcore event I was about to visit out of pure curiosity was “you’re going to be one of those people who don’t know what they are talking about”….. While I like the adrenaline rush this music causes I can’t even name 10 hardcore bands off the top of my head let alone elaborate on the music itself, so a report…….oh well. But to make things more balanced I’ve decided to give the word to someone who’s better grounded in the subject, one of the people who are more or less responsible for the success or the failure of a music event. These guys and gals usually stay in the background but have you ever thought how much a successful show depends on who organizes it? Only if it fails I suppose. So below, after my “report”, I’m going to meet you with a person who’s to blame for not one and two hardcore, punk and ska events happening in Sofia in the last 10 years. DOG EAT DOG, STICK TO YOUR GUNS, KOFFIN KATS, PARKWAY DRIVE, SKAPOINT, FINAL PRAYER, THE SILVER SHINE are just a few of the bands that played on a Hardcore Spirit event. But first a few words about the COMEBACK KID / MELEKH / BROTHERS IN BLOOD / CEDRON gig on June 9th.

COMEBACK KID live in Sofia - flyer

Mixtape 5 is one of the best venues in Sofia and my favourite but shit happens and that day the AC system wasn’t working so the lack of oxygen in the room makes it difficult to breathе before the first band had even begun. How the four bands managed to stay functional and in high gear till the end is a mystery to me. CEDRON are from Söderhamn, Sweden and I didn’t expect anything but quality because, well, they are from Sweden. And they did put very intense show with the exact amount of loudness and enthusiasm to get you pumped up , unfortunately in front of half an empty room. This was their second Euro tour for 2014 and second time playing in Sofia in a matter of months and they were taking footage for a video for “Phoenix”, a song out of their second album “Chased By Shades”. Check out the music if you haven’t done it yet.

I’ve seen BROTHERS IN BLOOD live one time before and they have that groovy energy that makes a live performance a good one. Despite being inactive for a long time (though the members take part in a number of other projects) they sound very tight for a bunch of people who are playing together only occasionally and get together mainly to have fun. Perhaps they wouldn’t listen but writing some new music now when they are more mature is not that bad idea. You can read the story behind them HERE and watch the icing on the cake from their set below.

Apart from the fact that MELEKH ‘s singer is also providing evil vocal load for Sofia’s prime doomsters UPYR, I know nothing about the band.  But they seem to be quite a name on the Bulgarian hardcore scene because the audience is beginning to show more interest in the gig. The mix during their set was a bit blurred for my taste and they didn’t grab me but the crowd was greatly eager and enjoyed them a lot. As far as I know MELEKH are currently recording new album and till it’s ready you can check one of their older songs below.

 If you’re into hardcore, whether you like them or not, I guess COMEBACK KID is a name that doesn’t need introduction. The gig in Sofia was part of the tour supporting their latest album “Die Knowing”. Mad punk attitude and vigour is what the band brought on stage and the crowd responded with due diligence and keenness.Great show from the Canadians, they have mastered their craft to say the least. The final song of the set finds a big number of fans on the stage but the band kept playing without showing any uneasiness so I suppose that’s a normal situation for them and I’ve never seen Mixtape being emptied so fast after a gig like it did that night.

There were no photographers at the show or any kind of media and for that reason you won’t find any pictures here. It’s quite difficult to get their attention for underground happenings but that’s a different story.

COMEBACK KID live in Sofia

Now, meet Rostislav and his hardcore spirit.

Rostislav, please tell me with a few words who you are and what do you do.

My name is Rostislav and I’m dealing with hell a lot of things, but I guess what we’re going to talk about is Hardcore Spirit. Since 2003 I’m making the biggest webzine for hardcore punk and ska in Bulgaria and at the same time am organizing lots of gigs of foreign bands in these genres.

HC Spirit Black Flag logo

Is there a “hardcore spirit” in Bulgaria?

Absolutely! It is no coincidence that many foreign bands give very favourable feedback after their gigs in Bulgaria. There are many big names from the world stage that haven’t played here yet and often when they come, they feel like in the ’90s in the west. I mean, compared to how the audience behave as a one whole and all the emotion at the gigs. The hardcore spirit shows quite so at such events, when the band plays live and meet face to face with the fans. Of course, everyone is free to define the term “hardcore spirit” in its sole discretion, but it, the spirit, anyway haunts each and every live show here……. still.

What made you say “still”? Do you think that things are changing and in what direction?

Mostly what is happening in the West. At the places where there are many concerts and major hardcore bands’ tours are routine, supersaturation is often seen and the emotion is not that much or is simply missing. Of course, it doesn’t mean that we can draw a general conclusion for all concerts as in Germany for example, but often, especially when talking about more unknown and underground bands, the behavior of the locals is passive to say the least. In addition, the fashion often prevails over emotion – a problem not one band sang songs about.
I hope, however, this will not overtake us in such scale and hardcore spirit will remain with us in its initial concept.

I read a somewhat bitter message on the HC Spirit facebook page that you’re cancelling all scheduled concerts until the end of the year with the exception of that of STAMPIN’ GROUND. I guess this is a result of many things…. Is there understanding from the fans what the organization of these events costs you?

Perhaps not bitter, it was rather a brief announcement with a short addition caused by the behavior of a certain type of people towards similar events. There has always been understanding as many of these fans are involved in one way or another in the organization in a way – some of them play in bands, others also organize events, take part in the making of records or issue magazines, etc.

But here is the point at which I should mention that the fans of this type of music are not a homogeneous mass. And because of that there is a certain type of “fans” who deserve the quotes when you call them that way. They think they are always screwed if they pay the entrance fee; that someone always earns money on their back and always look to save 25 levs (for example) and it’s irrelevant whether the organizer has already paid 2500 and has thrown so much effort. These people need to understand that they neither support the future of the scene here nor the bands whose fans they claim to be. Fortunately they are a minority against all those who act with the necessary understanding.

Maybe this is the right time to say thank you to all the band which (as rarely as it happens) haven’t received any fees or benefits when opening for big foreign names on my invitation, neither of them has any claims and all of them respond extremely sympathetic to the situation.

You mean you don’t earn millions out of this thing? All my illusions are broken! Seriously – I think there are “screwed” fans in almost each music genre, not just when it comes to hardcore ….

Of course I earn millions, but they are never enough … car fleet, villa in the suburbs of Sofia, weekly holidays abroad and many women … the costs are constantly increasing :))
Honestly, speaking about the financial part of this type of gigs it is unlikely that someone (being in a band or is just a promoter) expects to receive many dividends from their presence in the scene. The fact is that there were gigs where the tickets sold were enough to make a few bucks, but usually the profit covers previous losses from other events. One way or another, if I have to draw the line after more than 10 years, I have invested a lot of time, effort and money but it totally pays off with lots of emotions, new friends and unforgettable experience. Otherwise, in many cases if there is some money on top accidentally, we just drink them away in the bars after the given event.

In your opinion, who are the bands that form the scene in Bulgaria at the moment – new, noteworthy, and those who have already left their mark? I hope no one would get the hump if you miss to mention someone’s name …

If we begin with the oldest and still active bands, you can’t omit INDIGNITY, OUTRAGE, LAST HOPE, VENDETTA, MANIACAL PICTURES, PIZZA, RREDOUND, MELEKH, PLASTIC BO, DELATEC4, REJECTION and many others. Very permanent prints are left by T.V.U., CROWFISH, CONFRONT, SPOT, SKINFLICK and all those the fans still remember. From the new wave (and already not so young bands) you should hear EXPECTATIONS– perhaps the hardest working band at the moment. Also in a short period of time appeared many punk rock bands that are worth hearing, starting with PERFECT SKIES and BRIGHT SIGHT, and the younger PAPAERWING, FACE-OFFNEGATIVE ONE and many others.  But the scene is formed by each of the bands and all the people that keep coming to the gigs.

What it is like to organize an underground gig? What are the main difficulties you meet with and what makes you keep doing it?

There is a point when everything becomes more or less a routine, so it is not that hard, at least when it comes to the not so big bands. Of course, some big names have specific requirements, which sometimes make the situation a bit more difficult, but anyway the main complications are mostly connected with the financial part. This is almost always a problem.
It is important to mention that I’m referring to the gigs in Sofia. In the smaller towns it is definitely more difficult to organize an event of this type for a number of reasons – the clubs are often lacking the necessary equipment and the adequate sound engineers……. Still, it is because of this the underground music is associated with the concept of DIY – do it yourself. If it wasn’t so, it wouldn’t be so exciting and interesting.

Which of the events you have put together mean the most to you? I’m talking about the sheer fan emotion. In this connection, do you manage to enjoy the gigs and bands that play here on your invitation when there are so many other things to do?

I often fail to see them the way I would like to. There is no way to relax without having at least 10 things to think about while the band is playing.

But there is almost no event that I have organized that hasn’t charged me with fan’s emotion. Very often the emotion of the crowd reflects on the organizer (or at least on me) and respectively when at a given event there are people who are having fun, everything is moving, bodies are flying from the scene and the bars, this resonates with me too. Otherwise, one of the coolest concerts for sure, charged with a hell of a good mood, emotion and positive memories is when we celebrated 10 years since the establishment of Hardcore Spirit. Actually we did it together with my friends REBOUND, who also celebrated 10 years on the stage as a band and we gathered with all our friends … it was totally crazy.

Thank you so much for this conversation and I wish you many more events with favorite bands! Finally, what’s forthcoming in the near future for HC Spirit?

One great event is in store for HC Spirit – STAMPIN ‘GROUND, which probably is going to be the only one until the end of the year as the last week I cancelled 3-4 scheduled concerts … well, still you never know….
I’m also hoping for a revival of the webzine because there was no refreshing of its functionality in the last two years and the updates are limited to news, upcoming events and occasionally uploading photo galleries from the events. Now is the time to ask anyone who is interested to invest some community service to contact us – we need people to revive our sections with articles, interviews and of course, more pictures from concerts.
And in the nearest future awaits more carefree visiting of events and even more solid partnership with 100Beers.bg . Cheers!

STAMPIN GROUND

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