Deccan Rock: ‘This is our Most Organized Edition Yet’
Deccan Rock organizer and Orka Networks co-founder Renu Rau looks back at their 10-year run and what’s in store for their fourth edition this month
The first edition of metal festival Deccan Rock witnessed a logistical breakdown that’s probably every heavily-attended concert’s worst nightmare””one of the barricades separating the audience from the artist area fell apart, and the crowd started pouring into the green room of Swedish Viking metal band and festival headliners Amon Amarth. Organizers Orka Network’s founder Renu Rau recalls, “All the bouncers had left by then so it was just me between the crowd and Johan [Hegg, vocalist]. And he’s such a huge dude so at one point, it was him protecting me and not me protecting him!” The second edition in 2011, turned out to be a “proper disaster,” as Rau describes, with not enough takers for the heavy-hitter lineup of 19 bands from across 11 countries over two days. “It ended up being too many bands, too much money that went into it and in the end, we sold very few tickets. Our title sponsor actually cheated us, so we lost almost Rs. 35 lakhs there,” she explains. By the third edition in 2013, the organizers decided to take Deccan Rock on tour, traveling to four cities with French metal band Hacride.
Despite the intermittent setbacks, Orka Networks have grown to become one of the few large-scale metal and rock gig organizers in India, bringing down the likes of Dutch prog metallers Textures, Polish tech-death band Decapitated and Finnish rock act Poets of the Fall. The Hyderabad-based company also lays claim to organizing college festivals and private gigs that have drawn crowds of up to 15,000””all of which has contributed to the learning process.
Now in their tenth year of operation, Orka Networks is bringing down Polish blackened death metallers Behemoth for their much-anticipated India debut. Says Rau, “We’ve taken all our mistakes [from past editions] into consideration and organized this one. I think this one is far more organized than any other edition that we’ve done.” BehemothÂ will headline the fourth edition of Deccan Rock, which will also witness performances by UK electro/tech-metal bandÂ Meta-StasisÂ as well as Indian bands. These include Bengaluru thrash/death metal bandÂ Inner Sanctum, Mumbai “stone-age” metallersÂ Primitiv, Bhopal brutal death metal bandÂ Elemental, Hyderabad death metallersÂ GodlessÂ and Pune metallers Dark Helm. In an interview with ROLLING STONE India, Rau discusses the challenges in building up the country’s first metal festival, how Orka Networks has grown over the past decade and why Indian metal bands should be “bitching and whining less.”
You’ve been organizing metal and rock festivals for quite a while now. What was the metal scene like when you started out, and what prompted you to start a festival dedicated to this genre?
When I started out there were not many private festivals happening. There was Great Indian Rock, Rock in India””which no one could compete with. So in the league of Octoberfest, Summerstorm, Bangalore Open Air, Deccan Rock was the first one that came up, and it was after us that all these festivals came about being. It was actually quite difficult back then because we knew nothing about organizing a metal gig. Me and my partner back then, we watched [Swedish metallers] Opeth at IIT Madras in 2009 which is when we started thinking we wanted to take it ahead of just doing local gigs.
How did you coin the term Deccan Rock?
We wanted to do it in Hyderabad in the beginning but we weren’t sure if””at least back in 2009””we were going to get the kind of crowd that Bangalore was going to get”¦ We named it Deccan, after the Deccan Plateau. Also, we always wanted to associate this festival with creating awareness on climate change and global warming which is something that’s very, very dear to my heart. Even in 2009, we tied up with NGOs like Batti Bandh, Indian Youth Climate Network.
What was it like bringing down Amon Amarth and Textures for the first edition, considering Textures already had a strong following (in India) prior to 2009?
To be very honest, I didn’t know what the kind of following was for Textures. It was just by word of mouth that we spoke to a couple of friends who were into this kind of music”¦ I think I was more confident about Amon Amarth getting more crowd because they are very big. Even today as well, they’re in the next league altogether.
What were the challenges you faced not only putting together the first edition, but also for every successive show?
The second edition happened in Hyderabad and that was a proper disaster because we were only supposed to do a one-day event and we ended up being a two-day festival. So it ended up being too many bands, too much money that went into it and in the end, we sold very few tickets. Our title sponsor actually cheated us, so we lost almost 35 lakhs there. That was one mistake that we learnt. Also, we got Decapitated at a time when they weren’t even that popular, which I thought was a bad business move”¦ The third festival, we did a tour with Hacride”¦ We tried to do the festival as a tour but that didn’t work because the logistics were too much to keep in mind.
Venues don’t support you, neither do sponsors.
But we sort of did our own experiments with the first three editions and this time””obviously we’ve organized other festivals than Deccan Rock””we’veÂ taken all our mistakes into consideration and organized this one. We’ve had about 10 years’ experience to come to this position, and everyone’s been waiting for Behemoth so that’s been another good addition.
How would you say not only Deccan Rock, but also Orka Networks as a whole has grown over the years?
We’ve always had good clientele we’ve been working with. Our main strength is the kind of college shows that we get every year and we make sure all the visas are done in advance. In our entire 10 years, only one gig got canceled because of visas””Cynic was supposed to perform in Goa and visas from America were quite strict back then. We’ve got clients like IIT Kharagpur, IIT Madras, IIT Guwahati, IIT Hyderabad””all these colleges keep coming back to us and keep working with us. That’s one thing that strengthens the company. Other than that we also have private festivals who tie up with us. Last year we worked with BIG69, we brought down Carcass for them. We did Indian Metal Festival with [French metal act] Gojira… We also tied up with Vh1 a couple of times, like for the Poets of the Fall tour, Wolfmother. We’re trying to get a balance between the metal and commercial artists as well.
What’s your take on the growth of Indian metal years?
It definitely has [picked up]. I’ve also seen how the scene works in the UK and how it works here. I can understand a lot of bands here, judging by online posts and stuff where they’re constantly bitching and whining about, “Promoters are not doing this, promoters are taking away all the money.”
I think one thing that the scene here can learn is how bands and organizers can come together and support each other. We’ve had our share of problems with other bands”¦ After paying all the artists and paying for all their extra needs, we make zero money. Venues don’t support you, neither do sponsors. Right now I don’t have a title sponsor for Deccan Rock yet. So it’s quite difficult to balance it out. I’ve also seen that a lot of bands think that they deserve to be paid “x” amount of money if they want to make a living by being a musician. But I think they don’t know the reality that no one is making money these days.Â I met Devin Townsend a couple of months ago and he was telling me that he’s stressed out because he hasn’t paid his daughter’s school fees yet. So you’re meeting your idols and they’re like “Yeah, I need to get back to a job right now.” It’s not easy to survive on your music.
Deccan Rock: The Fourth Edition takes place at Leonia Holistic Destination, Hyderabad on September 24th, 2016. Event detailsÂ here.