Albert Mudrian, Decibel’s Editor-in-Chief, Talks Decibel Tour
Launched in 2012, the annual Decibel Magazine Tour may very well be the magazine’s finest moment. For the past six years, ambitious curation has unified artists from the far reaches of the planet who would otherwise never have the opportunity to tour North America together. The lineup for the 2017 Decibel Magazine Tour continued that proud tradition, as German thrash metal founders Kreator aligned with Florida death metal legends Obituary, old-school Ohio brutalizers Midnight and celebrated progressive death prodigies Horrendous (along with regional openers in select markets). With the 2017 tour wrapping up on April 15th in Philadelphia, PA, FreqsTV’s, Valérie Blais, recently interviewed Albert Mudrian, Decibel’s editor-in-chief, to learn more about what it takes to put together one of today’s most extreme tours.
Could you take me through the process of putting this tour together?
We started talking about doing it back in 2011. A friend of mine, a booking agent, Nick Storch, approached me with the idea to do the Decibel Tour. He is a big fan of the magazine, and he likes the music, so he told me that we should do this. The idea was to do something where we take all these band that fit under the umbrella of Decibel, put them all together, and have it be this cohesive thing. I was immediately intrigued by that, so we started talking. We ended up figuring out that we would have Behemoth available for the first tour.
The main thing is figuring out who our headliner is, and then build out around that. That isn’t to say that the other parts of the lineup aren’t important. It took us a really long time this year to get the second band right. I still can’t believe we have Midnight!
We literally start looking at bands a year in advance. We’re deep into the 2018 line up right now, in terms of who’s gonna be on it, how it’s gonna be rounded, when it’s gonna happen.
All that can change, too. We can have these plans in place, to have a headliner band or a support band, we can think that we’re ready to give them an offer. By the time we’re planning it, the band could have gotten an offer to play Europe for that period and have accepted it.
We try to think as forward as we can. We try to have as many plans B to Z as possible when inevitably something falls through, either a band can’t do it because they’re not available at that time, or the offer isn’t high enough for them, or they don’t want to be part of a package like this.
There have definitely been bands that we’ve approached who didn’t want to be involved because we pick this line up. Some bands are very particular about who they want to have an association with on the road. They have this very stylized view of what their band is and how it should be presented. It goes down to who they are touring with, the lineup from top to bottom.
How do you choose the bands?
We kinda break it down. Right now, we’re looking at 2018, and we’re thinking of who’s gonna have a record out in the second half to the later part of 2017. We have a pretty good idea of this stuff with the magazine. We know what’s coming and which bands have something in the pipeline.
We know for sure that these half dozen bands are gonna put something out in the last quarter of 2017. We then ask ourselves if there is a headliner among them. We also ask ourselves if we can put them in the size room that normally works for the tour, which is the 800-1200 size room. These are the venues where we have the most success. We can sometime fill bigger rooms, but it’s more pressure. Mid-size rooms are our sweet spot right now.
Sometimes, it works out like this. Sometimes, it works out when you don’t think it would.
It was the case with At The Gates. It’s one of my favourite bands, and one of those bands I have a long personal relationship with. I knew they were putting out a record in 2014. We worked with their booking agent, but it seemed he couldn’t figure it out. They wanted to do something weird, where they would tour for two weeks, go away for a month, and come back for another two weeks with a different lineup. I understood why they wanted to do it this way. The guys have full-time jobs beside the band, so they can only go away a little at the time. But for me, it was not cohesive. How do we promote that? Do we promote two tours? Or one tour with two different lineups? I didn’t see how it could work. That was at the beginning of 2014.
They played at the Maryland Death Fest that year and I ran into the guys backstage. They wanted to figure out the Decibel Tour and how to do it. I thought this wasn’t happening.
We ended up with the shortest tour we ever did. We were able to make it work because the guys were just determined to do the tour. Sometimes the bands come to us, like with At The Gates, but we like it more when we go get the bands, to be honest. It feels that this is how it should go.
We are six years in, and the six headliners have been Behemoth, Cannibal Corpse, Carcass, At The Gates, Abbath and Kreator. I feel the Decibel audience is into that. I’m into that, so they’re into that. The choices we make are driven by a basic fandom, which is the case of everything we do.
We also need to figure out how it can be applied in a sensible business manner. We need to make sure that the bands make the money they need to make and that the magazine makes the money it needs to make.
This is obviously fun and I enjoy it. This is a good thing for our scene and community. At the end of the day, I invest a lot of time in it, so it has to be a legitimate revenue stream to keep doing it.
Who is on your bucket list for next year?
There are two bands, one in particular.
The first one really wants to do it, and has always wanted to it. We just haven’t made financial sense for both sides yet. It’s Paradise Lost, a long-time favorite band of mine.
The second band is Triptykon. I’m a huge fan of Tom Warrior’s work. He is a fan of the magazine, so he is not averse to do it. It just comes down to what it often comes down to, the logistics and the financials. It’s very expensive for a European band to come to the US.
I would like to figure out these bands sooner or later.
What is the biggest challenge you face with the Decibel Tour?
Time management! It’s a combination of being able to know your own limitations and trying to get to the point where you either learn how to do some of these new things you’re taking on, or you’re smart enough to bring other people to do it.
It’s a combination of time and people, really. We have ideas. We’ve done a lot of interesting things, in my mind at least, over13 years that a lot of magazines haven’t really done. We’re not short on ideas. It’s not that there aren’t bands that we’re not excited about, because there are constantly bands that we’re excited about. It’s not because there isn’t an audience. The audience has been there, and it’s not going anywhere! The challenge is to figure out how we sensibly do all the things we want to do.
Read the entire interview at this location.