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Europe's Craziest Grindcore Party Heads to North America: Meet the Man Behind Obscene Extreme

Zip up your banana suit and get ready to haul ass to Montreal for a weekend of grind madness on August 20-23.
March 21, 2015, 5:00pm

Curby in his natural habitat / All photos courtesy of Curby/OEF

European festivals are famed for their size and intensity (just look at Wacken's 80,000+ attendees), and even the underground fests are pretty fucking formidable. The Czech Republic has played host to the sprawling "freak-friendly" live music institution that is Obscene Extreme since 1999, welcoming thousands of fans of grindcore, death metal, hardcore, crust, and otherwise fast loud manic music into its muddy, absinthe-splattered embrace. If you've been, you know that it's probably the most fun you can have at a festival—stage invasions are encouraged, liquor flows freely (and cheaply!), dancing and goofiness is de rigueur, and rockstar attitudes are outlawed. Want to dress up like a banana and circle pit to Jig-Ai? Want to get naked and ride a giant inflatable shark onto the stage during Birdflesh? Obscene Extreme can't wait to meet you.


In recent years the festival has expanded into other countries, bringing the party to Japan, Indonesia, Australia, and most recently Mexico; now, Curby—the man, the myth, the legend (basically Obscene Extreme's answer to Walter Roadburn)—has his sights set on another North American invasion. We emailed the good-natured festival don about his next plan of action, propelled by both boundless enthusiasm and hard-won experience. Watch out, Montreal…

Noisey: Obscene Extreme is coming back to North America! How did the festival in Mexico go? What did you learn from that gig, and how do you plan to apply those lessons to the Canadian version?
Curby: Yeah, we are going back! And the Mexican festival? In a word? INSANE! I have so many stories to say, it's just incredible…anyway it was a pretty intense and life changing experience. We didn’t have a stage or an audio system even a week before the gig, though I had tried to book it months before. I've got another story about the native people who called us in the evening to say that we have to give them extra money as they didn’t get anything from the sheriff; we told them we had paid all permissions, but it appeared that the guy disappeared with all the money, so I had to find a lot of money for them not to be forced to fight with their machetes. We oganised this festival in the mountains close to Mexico City; the land was native land and just one small road was the way to our festival area, so it was very easy to block it. It was simply up and down every day, every hour; it was very hard to work with the OEF crew as well, they were smoking weed all the time so we had no shuttles on time. Another time fuel ran out in our generators, even we asked them if they were sure we had enough fuel; one hour before opening the festival area we were missing like 50 meters of fence! We had also an attack of so-called punks (no future, sniffing glue creatures) that really wanted to see Doom, and told us that they'd throw big stones at the fans inside the area. We had fake tickets, fake wristbands etc. etc. I even bought a fake ticket for my own collection…imagine, a fake ticket for an underground festival! Everything was about money in Mexico…almost everyone wanted money in advance, which is always a problem even in Europe, so this was even worse there. There’s no confidence at all and I simply can’t work in such conditions and make an honest festival. When you’re honest, you are always a step behind people that don’t give a fuck about being good. But to finish with Mexico on a positive note, I must say I met a lot of really loyal OEF fans and OEF crew and it made me really happy! And be sure I learned a lot from that fest! After the Mexican fest, I'm almost sure that I can organize an extreme music festival on Mars, and that's not bad I guess! I really do believe all that experiences will help us to do better festivals in 2015! And hell yeah, so far Canada looks like a very relaxed place, and everyone I asked told me that Montreal is a nice city with a great scene.


It's crazy to hear that you weren't able to find a venue in the United States. What eventually led to you choosing Montreal?

I still can't believe that. I was trying simply everything, contacted lots of my American friends; they were trying to help me but after months and months we still had nothing in our hands. It was really frustrating. We don't need much, but at least a fair deal, but all those American venues were like, "We get everything from the bars and you pay a fat rent, we have big security guys that can do whatever they like and you shut up." So, this is not how we understand the word "cooperation" here in Europe. It's a completely different mentality, mostly about money, and that's not the cornerstone of our festival if you understand me…

Well, I was asking all around once again and almost every band mentioned Montreal as one of the best places to play in North America so I really hope this is true! We had a good deal for OEF 2015 in a few weeks, we could even choose from bigger venues; all the staff were really friendly and they understood what we want to bring along. We were even able to ask them to put a fair beer price, to allow stage diving and so on, which means this fest will be very close to the madness we can enjoy in Trutnov, Europe at our mother fest every year!


By now, you've taken Obscene Extreme around the world, from your home in the Czech Republic to Mexico, Indonesia, Australia, and Japan—all places with huge and often underrepresented metal/punk communities. What have you learned about metal/punk fans from working with all of these different communities?
There are loyal and down to earth or die-hard fans everywhere on earth. It's a beautiful thing that music can connect all those crazy people in one nice community where it doesn't matter where you are from or what colour your skin is! I was so happy to meet those loyal OEF followers all over the world, even in the countries like Mexico or Indonesia where the life is too hard to do underground music. The Mexican maniacs can be quite wild, but also the Japanese fans, but the most crazy audience is surely our fanbase here in the Czech/Trutnov…that's for sure, a madness absolutely! How do you fund the festival? It's a completely DIY affair, and it must cost a ton of money to keep it running smoothly and continually bring in the caliber of bands you're known for—let alone in a string of different countries!
Yes, it's completely DIY and I believe this is the way we have to go…it's hard to finance the fest this way, but I really want to be independent as much as I can so it's the only way. The Czech mother fest has been here since 1999 and has been perceived as one of the best places for really extreme underground music in Europe, so after the first few volumes we had really balanced the budget and we can do our OEF world tour using the profit from that festival. We had really a huge loss in 2013, especially in Mexico and Indonesia (where our friends ripped us off really badly). The 2014 World tour was so, so…not bad at all. You know,it all depends on the fans…we offer them something, and if they support us, that is cool, we can continue to do that thing; if not, we'll just die forgotten as many other good festivals in the past. So our fans are the most important sponsor for us, the OEF fans are very loyal and they know what they do and why. They know it's all about them, and you can do a much healthier festival in this way. I don’t want to flood our festival with commerce; I mean, advertising is everywhere and who wants to be disturbed with that on a music festival? Not me! I understand it’s easier to do a festival with big sponsors, but who gives a fuck? OEF is very pro-stagediving, pro-stage dancing, and pro-fun. Have you ever had to deal with any injuries or problems as a result of the laid-back security? Did the Randall Blythe/Lamb of God stagediving death case affect your decision at all when you decided to keep things as they are?
Yes, we are very old-school, and I believe that it is very important for our attendees to have direct contact with the band, hang out with the band's members and so on…stage diving, moshpits, circle pits, it's all stuff we want to keep. It reminds me what we stand for, who we are; we want fun, that's 100% sure! We don't want to go to a festival with barriers and such a big distance between the fans and the band, and with shitty security. Those places are more like prisons, and I can't understand and believe that people pay to get to those festivals! Insane! We had some injuries, of course. Nothing is perfect, but nothing really bad, and we want to go on like this. We have a crew (we don't say security) recruited from bands' members or from people that are there in the scene for a long time, and all of them know what to do and why they are there on the stage, e.g. to help stage divers. This helps a lot! Those people exactly know where a fan can go and where they cannot. I really don't know exactly what happened that night in Prague with Randall Blythe. I heard so many rumours and stories, and I simply don't know; one sure thing is that there's a dead fan and that's not funny at all. Stage diving is about being respectful to other fans, about being respectful to the bands playing, and stage diving rules must be respected. In the last few years, we have improved the stage diving area a lot. OEF is not a concentration camp where you have to stay away ten meters from the stage because a festival needs a photo pit. OEF is a festival, or better, a celebration of extreme music; our fans do perfectly understand there must be some rules but not too many. Our OEF crew is very respected by the fans, and our crew respect fans, so it’s easy like that.


Can you give us a sneak peek at who else is playing this year? You've already announced Shirenc Plays Pungent Stench, MOD, Dropdead, and several others—who else can we expect to see?
Yeah, some more wicked bands, not big names only as this is not the OEF style—we'll always support even small/new bands. To make really a good mix between bigger bands and newcomers is a real challenge! I'm more than happy that we'll have such great and genre defining bands like Shirenc Plays Pungent Stench, Billy Milano and MOD, and the mega fast Dropdead. Right now we have just announced further bands like the brutal Malignancy from NYC, my really favourite band Trap Them—I simply love their latest album Blissfucker, I have to listen to this masterpiece at least once a day! A great newer band Full of Hell, the llegendary Agathocles from Belgium, the insane grinders from France Inhumate, and we also booked Saudi Arabia grinders Creative Waste. We keep an eye on the Canadian underground scene so we have just confirmed the awesome Fuck the Facts, grinding Mesrine, old school thrash titans Aggression, agressive thrash old-schoolers Soothsayer, and lots of newer bands like Saccage, Biological Monstrosity, Deboned, and Soil of Ignorance,and there are more to come! Just check our websites from time to time! Where with OEF go next? Will you try again with the United States, or do you have another country in mind?
I'm really not sure right now. I really want to do an awesome festival in Canada, and then come back there in 2016 and maybe to try a real open-air. It all depends on the support we get from the North American fans this year. One sure thing is that this year we will have our mother fest in Trutnov, Czech Republic between July 8-12 (Obirutary, S.O.B., Terrorizer, Pig Destroyer, Rompeprop, Unholy Grave, Hirax, Internal Bleeding, Bulldozer, Hemdale, etc) then the Canadian fest in Montreal on August 20-23, and then the last OEF in Tokyo, Japan this year on November 20-23. After that we'll see where to go. We still haven't organised the festival in Africa yet!


What's your favorite thing about Obscene Extreme?
That's really not an easy question. Obscene Extreme has become one of the most important parts of my life; I wake up with OEF, I go to sleep with OEF, I dream about OEF, it's everywhere! I feel that the OEF community is the most important thing. That could be the answer. Thanks to this community, we have an absolutely unique vibe! It’s really something special, maniacs from all over the world meet at one place and the atmosphere is really friendly; everyone is a real die-hard fan of extreme music, so this makes this festival special. We have stage diving, friendly crew working on the stage, vegan/vegetarian food only, we have a special Kinder Grinder corner where your kids can play together with other kids, we do a charity for Doctors Without Borders, every year we host a a freak show, and more and more little things that make Obscene Extreme such a unique event. Usually you come once because you’re curious, then you stay with us forever as you can feel the difference between OEF and the other classic metal festivals. Of course since the first festival we have improved a lot; it is different but the vibe and passion for music is the same! I really appreciate your support, hopefully see you all in Montreal or Trutnov or Tokyo!

OBSCENE EXTREME AMERICA 2015 Schedule Thursday AUGUST 20 - PRE-FEST, start 7 pm, approx. 10 bands
3699, Boul. St-Laurent, Montréal, Québec Friday AUGUST 21, start 1 pm, approx. 20 bands
Théâtre TELUS
1280 St-Denis / coin Ste-Catherine, Montréal, Québec Saturday AUGUST 22, start 1 pm, approx. 20 bands
Théâtre TELUS
1280 St-Denis / coin Ste-Catherine, Montréal, Québec Sunday AUGUST 23 - AFTERSHOW, start 5 pm, approx. 5-10 bands
1635 Boul. St-Laurent, Montréal, QC H2X 2S9

Kim Kelly went to OEF 2009 and hasn't stopped smiling since—@grimkim