Another addition to the growing number of festivals exploding out of the Western Canadian woodwork as of late is Edmonton’s Black Mourning Light, set to be held at the Rendezvous Pub in the town that Wayne Gretzky built on October 21-22. I may have stumbled across this particular fest due to the fact that a buddy of mine is handling PR and promotion for it, but three elements of BML’s second year piqued my interest. First, the program limits performers to those from the black and doom metal sub-genres. This may seem narrowing or ghettoizing to some, but there is a definite aesthetic vision which you have to admire. Secondly, BML in addition to having bands play, the plan is to also have a short-film festival running concurrently with musical performances, presumably in the vein of Anselmo’s Housecore Horrorfest. And third, there’s something going on on the 23rd of October called “The Mourning After” in which those who purchase VIP passes will be able to sit down at a very understanding local eatery with the bands and presumably dine on the body and blood of the recently slain Christ before parting ways. On this year’s schedule thus far are: Panzerfaust, Erimha, Idolatry. Display of Decay, Vile Insignia, Hive, UADA, Helleborus, Wormwitch, Norilsk, Cell, Holocaust Lord, Nachtterror, Dethgod, Ye Goat-Herd Gods and Hunted By Ravens (all of which can be previewed below). We caught up with organizer Dustin Ekman for a bit of info on his labour of love.
First off, can you give us some background and history about the Black Mourning Light fest? What was its original impetus and inspiration?
Dustin Ekman: Black Mourning Light was simply my answer to the myriad of other festivals here in Western Canada. We've got a ton of great fests, like Farmageddon, Loud as Hell, and Armstrong to name a few. But none of them cater to the music closest to my heart, black and doom metal.
As far the location goes, did you have to do any verbal stickhandling with the people at the venue the fest is at when you told them it was a doom and black metal fest? Does musical/artistic prejudice run deep in Edmonton and do people still talk about the Norwegian shenanigans from the 90s like it was yesterday?
The location was easy as hell to secure. The manager of Rendezvous, Calvin, used to be the vocalist for Dead Jesus, a local death metal legend. So when I said "Black and doom fest,” Calvin said “Fuck yeah!” Edmonton itself is a hotbed for killer music, from death to black to punk, and even more radio friendly stuff; there are no real prejudices towards metal here at all.
What sort of atmosphere does the location/city/fest offer and how do you feel it’s different from other fests you’ve attended or heard about?
The atmosphere of Edmonton as a whole is a strange brew. At its heart, it is a small oil town; a fort in the wild frontier prairies of Canada. But it grew, massively, and with that growth came industry of many stripes. It’s a very grey and industrial city in some places, but lots of woodland and parkland in other parts. It's a perfect place to create really angry and aggressive black metal and industrial music. Black Mourning Light itself reflects that. Very different bands creating a big racket that mirrors the industriousness of Edmonton.
What’s the booking process like for you? Was it difficult to convince certain bands to make the trek up to Edmonton (assuming they aren’t already on tour) and what do you say to those bands who don’t fit the fest’s aesthetic but just want to play anyway?
The booking process this year was through applications for the most part, so it wasn't hard to get most of the bands to come out. Bands outside of the main aesthetic are looked at, but for the most part not looked at too deeply. I do keep all applications though, so even if a band doesn't fit in BML, there may be other opportunities for them in the future.
This fest is different than many in that you’re screening films as well as having bands play. Where did this idea come from, has it been a showcase in past years and are you able to find enough content?
This is a new feature for this year. I've always liked more multimedia type shows, so I figured I'd toy with that idea this year, tease it a bit, and if successful will have it as an ongoing part of the festival. Content was not too hard to come by, I set it up like band applications. Interested filmmakers let me know their work, and I curated it to fit with BML.
What sorts of films do you showcase and what’s on this year’s docket?
I was hoping for more horror-themed films, but I didn't get as many applications for that as I'd hoped. There are a couple of flicks that we are showing that are horror this year, and if it goes well next year will be the same.
As well, what is this about people being able to have breakfast with the bands? Was there any difficulty trying to convince the bands to participate?
Ah, yes, the breakfast. What has been officially named The Mourning After will indeed be a full breakfast, eggs, bacon, all the fixings. And once I pitched it to the bands, all of them thought it was a good idea. Who doesn't like going home or continuing a tour with a full belly?
What improvements have you made for this year’s version? Have there been mistakes have you attempted to avoid or things you’ve done better? What’s worked for you that you’re keeping the same?
I don't know if you'd call it an improvement, but the festival is two days this year instead of one, so I suppose that would fall under the ‘done better’ category as well. One thing that worked for me that I'm keeping the same is the venue. Rendezvous has treated me well for many shows, and it's a pillar in the Edmonton metal community.
How long had you been working on this year’s version and what are you most excited about for the fest in 2016?
I've basically been working on this year's fest since the day after last year's; so, November 1st of 2015. What I'm most excited about is seeing some of Canada's best bands with a pair from the States that absolutely slay.
What else in life are you balancing with the fest and how time consuming is putting the fest together for you?
I'm balancing other shows, both my own productions and others I just want to go see, a full time job, and tons of personal relationships. Black Mourning Light is constantly on my mind, it's all consuming. As for time, it's pretty much a 24/7 thing for me. Even at work I'm working on BML.
What do you see, or hope, for the future of BML?
I see, and hope, that BML will become a true destination fest. Fans and bands will want to attend because it will bring the best of Canadian and international talent on one stage.
Who’s on your booking bucket list?
I might kill your word count on this question alone. My Dying Bride, Katatonia, The Third Attempt, Gorgoroth, Mourning Beloveth, Wilt, Sacrament ov Impurity, Gravehill, Ancient VVisdom, the list goes on.