Since 1999, Miroslav “Curby” Urbanec has been putting on the Obscene Extreme Festival in Czech. Billed as a “freak friendly extreme music festival,” OE has faithfully and respectfully catered to the grind, crust, punk, hardcore and death metal hordes, delivering the bunches of us willing and able to make the trek to the Trutov Battlefield the experience of a lifetime, assuming that experience can be remembered through the haze of the local beers and their liver-shredding potencies.
A couple years ago, Curby made the bold move of taking the OE brand to other parts of the world, namely Australia, Asia and North America, for an ambitious world tour designed to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the fest. Despite a less-than-savory experience with 2013’s Obscene Extreme America show in Mexico, he’s decided to trudge forward this year, moving the “America” version of the fest to Montreal and featuring Trap Them, Immolation, Fuck the Facts, Gruesome, Noisem, Jig-Ai, Soothsayer, Agathocles, The Drip, Drop Dead, Malignancy and loads more playing various venues around the island come August 20-23. We caught up with Curby literally the day after the last band packed up and the last vegan hot dog wrapper was picked up off the Trutov site to ask about trying to book obscenity and extremity for one part of the world from the other.
What was the original motivation for doing Obscene Extreme in locations outside of the usual spot in the Czech Republic?
Well, OEF had its 15th anniversary in 2013 and I was thinking about something very special and this was really something special that no one have done before me, especially in the DIY underground. I knew it would be an incredible amount of work, and the reality was even worse! So, the motivation was the same for everything else I do. [I do it] for my fave thing: for the music, to help the bands and to bring something new and fresh to our scene.
I didn’t attend, but I heard that the original Obscene Extreme America in Mexico didn’t run as smoothly as it could have. What happened and to what do you attribute the issues you had? And how did you try to ensure that something similar wouldn’t happen while trying to organise a festival from another country?
To be honest, the band, shows, sound, stage, festival venue, our OEF America crew…all the things we could control, were awesome! And I'm very proud that all the announced bands played the fest as it was really a huge challenge. Everything else was simply out of Euro/U.S. reality. The Mexican fans just don't think about tomorrow. They don't care what will happen the next year, so they forged tickets, wristbands and they were trying to get in for free by many other ways, like undermining the fence and so on. They simply cared about themselves, not about the festival and real support in general. Working with the Mexican people was even worse; everyone wanted to get money in advance and believed it didn't work like this in Czech so it couldn't work in Mexico. Even after two years, I am still pissed off by the fact how unfair those people were to OEF. Imagine this: a week before the fest, when you're in full stress-mode, guys from a native community who we had borrowed the land for our festival called us to tell us that they hadn't gotten any money from us, even though we had a contract and had paid money to their boss. But, they told us he had disappeared with the money and if we didn't give them an extra fat payment, they would block the only way to the festival’s venue with their big machetes and not let anyone in. It was an absolutely crazy situation! We had to go to the village and argue with the people and give them extra money to make the fest happen. And things like that happened almost every day! Our security guys had to use masks so that no one could take their pictures, as people would hunt them down after the fest! We also had issues with glue-sniffing punks who wanted to see Doom. They told us if we didn’t let them in for free, they would get stones and throw them into the venue on fans that paid the entrance fee!!! I have millions of stories from Mexico. I believe that after that fest, I can [do a better] festival even on Mars.
Why did you choose Montreal? Were there other cities/locations in the running?
Well, after 2014, when we couldn't find a solid venue for a fair price in Los Angeles, I was super picky. I was asking all my friends from bigger bands where is the best place to play in North America. And people like Danny Lilker and Shane Embury all said in a second - Montreal! Then, I was searching more and Montreal looked like a great city with a huge scene and that was exactly what I needed!!! I checked the venues/city back in May and I was surprised, as Montreal is really a nice city with lots of vegan places, everything really close to downtown. I feel this could be a great fest. And yes, we were also thinking about Portland, Chicago and Las Vegas in the U.S. Especially Portland; it was close as it's another nice city, but for now I have chosen Montreal.
What are the logistics you’ve had to deal with in booking the fest in Montreal and dealing with bands when you’re in Europe? How did you overcome them and did you find it harder or easier to do it with a year of experience and in a different location?
That's not really much different from the European fest. Talking with the bands is the easy part. Sometimes it’s very hard to understand how much money their agents want. I simply don't want to do a festival with the entrance fee being $200. That's not my style. I want to do a festival so that everyone can get in. I just feel that, like everything else, it's so expensive, even in the underground. As we don't have any sponsors, it's pretty hard to cope with the budget for the fest.
There has been some grumbling from some people saying that the lineup in Montreal isn’t as solid as the lineup in Czech. Of course, what bands a person likes and wants to see is all very subjective, but how do you respond to those criticisms?
Haha! Sure, people will always complain, man. Look, this is the first Canadian fest and we have as good line up as possible. Look what we had back in 1999 in Czech when we started. The Czech OEF is now simply a veteran among the extreme underground festivals in Europe with a really strong base of die-hard fans, so it's much easier to plan and offer bands good fees. I repeat: this is the first edition, and we just want to see if the (North) American fans want to have OEF or not. Believe me, I have tried to do my best for OEF America and I think the line up is really solid and I can't wait to see a lot of the bands there!
Were there any problems getting the bands you wanted to play? What did you discover to be some of the barriers you had to deal with in booking the fest in Montreal that you normally wouldn’t have to deal with when putting together the European version?
Well, as I said before, the biggest issue is money. I really like music and I really like to support my favorite bands, but even my support has limits. I can't simply risk and please everyone with super fat deals. I want to have a balanced budget and I want to pay everything I promise as I have been doing all the years in Czech!!!
As far as the actual fest itself goes, what would you say are the biggest differences between the North American and European versions?
Of course, the biggest difference is that the European festival is outdoors. I simply love it, even if we don't have super-fine summer weather. It's so great when you can enjoy the fest outside, staying in the middle of a storm, in a campsite where thousands of stories are told is just a life-changing experience sometimes [laughs]. I understand that in America, it's a bit different and people like their hotel beds, etc. But I recommend that to everyone. So, I can say this is going to be indoors, but we picked really good venues, so there can be stage diving. We'll have some special things there, vegan food and I simply want to bring as much from the European vibe as possible! It all depends on the fans as well, so I believe they will follow us and bring masks and make that weekend unforgettable!
Has it been difficult trying to promote a festival in a country you’ve never promoted a festival in before from the other side of the planet?
Absolutely man, very difficult! Also, some people look at me as if I were some kind of Viking who wanted to plunder their country and put obstacles in my way and spit on the OEF name. I don't care, man. I believe it can be only good for the Canadian scene. The next festival will need to improve and be better to its loyal fans so that the fan is always the winner and that's a good thing. I knew this from Czech. When I started OEF back in 1999, there were no Czech festivals bringing foreign bands, but from that time on everything changed. For example, Brutal Assault is a huge festival thanks to our “competition.” Don't get me wrong, we have been good friends with them for over 20 years and this challenge just helps both of us. But back to promotion, it's difficult but we still have many followers on YouTube and social media in general. So it's a sure thing that the Obscene Extreme name is well-spoken among the fans. The most important question now is if there will be enough of them to show us their support and come to join our show in Montreal.
What have been the most rewarding and positive things about taking the festival to other countries? Is this going to continue to be an event that moves locations from year to year? What’s the plan after 2015?
I simply love travelling. Thanks to music, I have been in more than 80 countries. Travelling is a hobby that opens your mind and if you can meet your friends in their houses, it's the best. They show you the way they live, their favorite spots, food and so on. I really don't know what will happen next year. It's been an insane year so far! It's just a few days after the European OEF and it was the best festival I have organized in my life, all the vibe, all the bands, simply the whole weekend was INCREDIBLE!!! I always want to do a perfect job and this year was very close. Seeing the reactions of everyone, it’s just very positive, so I'm full of power for the Canadian and Japanese festivals (it will be in Tokyo on November 20-23) so we'll see. This year is extremely productive for me as we are awaiting my fifth kid with my girlfriend in late November so I'll probably change my lifestyle a little bit, but I believe I'll have enough motivation for my next plans.