Behind the Scenes at Roadburn 2014 with Mr. Roadburn

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 13th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

There are a lot of people out there with a vision. Anyone with a targeted daydream can claim to have one. Whatever it is you dream of doing. I dream of owning and running a venue. I can see it in my head, how it comes together, the people there, the music playing, all of it. That’s my dream. I’m working toward it, but it’s not anywhere close to being a reality at this point. That’s where most people are. Walter Hoeijmakers (Obelisk questionnaire here) is on the other end of it — that rare person who has taken his vision, made it real, and continues to work with unmatched drive in refining and remaking his dream.

I’ve spoken at length before in admiration of what Walter does and all he continues to accomplish with the annual Roadburn festival in Tilburg, the Netherlands. It’s not just him — there’s Jurgen, Yvonne, the 013 crew, many, many people — but he’s widely regarded as the driving force, and his passion and heart reside at the core of what Roadburn has become. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you Roadburn has changed my life and changed the way I experience music every single day. In many ways, it has been the anchor of my last six years, and I was so, so happy to be there again in 2014.

When I arrived at the 013 for this year’s fest, and was greeted by Walter, the first thing I saw was the camera crew from Vice/Noisey filming the Mr. Roadburn documentary. I hadn’t slept, was unshowered, could barely keep my head up, but there was Walter, guru-calm in being unphased by the familiar stresses of the festival that was about to launch. Comment from Walter himself, as well as those playing and attending the fest (because even when you play, you also attend), it’s a good look at somebody whose work has genuinely contributed to the course of underground heavy music for more than the last decade, and someone whose influence runs toe-to-toe with any artist against whom you might want to measure. I know that when it comes to my own daydreams, he’s a major inspiration.

Enjoy:

Mr. Roadburn documentary

Mr. Roadburn at Vice/Noisey

Roadburn Festival

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Walter Hoeijmakers of Roadburn Festival

Posted in Questionnaire on February 25th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

While of course there’s an entire staff at work on just the festival — let alone that of the 013 venue where it’s held each April in Tilburg, the Netherlands — as the founder and driving creative force behind it, Walter Hoeijmakers is synonymous with Roadburn to the point of it having supplanted his surname. More often you’ll hear about or from Walter Roadburn, and for the last 15 years, he’s provided good reason. It’s hard to quantify the influence Roadburn has had within Europe’s heavy underground and beyond it, but with a slew of fests cropped up in its wake and with the brevity of ticket availability each year, Roadburn holds a special place for many who’ve been fortunate enough to be there to witness it, myself included. The last few years have seen Walter push the festival beyond its stoner and heavy rock roots, incorporating dark cultish rock, black metal, psychedelia, doom and a wide pastiche of yet to be defined creative works, and with Loop headlining and Opeth‘s Mikael Åkerfeldt curating, Roadburn 2014 is the most out-there yet.

On a personal note, I’ll add that aside from being someone whose work and passion I deeply admire, Walter Hoeijmakers is also one of the warmest, most sincere people I’ve had the pleasure to meet in music. He, and his festival, are one of a kind. Roadburn 2014 is set for April 10-13 at the 013 in Tilburg, the Netherlands.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Walter Hoeijmakers

How did you come to do what you do?

I’m heavily into music, mainly hard rock and metal, but also psychedelica, blues rock, and late ‘60s and early ‘70s rock and heavy psych for over 33 years now.

It all started when I was around 15 years old. Back then, I frequently started to visit the local youth centre in my home town, and one day I was asked to catalogue the entire music collection. We’re talking about approximately 2,000 albums here from the mid ‘60s ’til the early ‘80s. There and then, I got exposed to a whole new world that would change me forever. Music became my main passion, and inspiration for life.

This youth centre also organized shows, and a couple of years later, they let me start booking hard rock and metal shows, and I managed to get the likes of Destruction, Sodom, Angel Witch, Onslaught, Sepultura, Tokyo Blade, Laaz Rockit,  Nocturnus and Bolt Thrower, among others.

When I moved to another city, the first thing I did was joining another metal-inspired youth centre and kept organizing metal shows, and mainly coaching the volunteers. See, I became a seasoned social worker along, and was aiming to carve a career in helping out kids getting back on track or coaching volunteers. Later on, I specialized in helping out elderly Alzheimer patients and their families.

Meanwhile, I was an avid music aficionado, and collector as well, and due to a twist of fate (and a serious nervous breakdown in the end), I became a professional music journalist, and started to write about stoner rock and psychedelica around the time that Kyuss’ Blues for the Red Sun and Monster Magnet’s Spine of God came out. I was heavily drawn to this scene, and started to write about all these exciting, young stoner and heavy psych bands, and compiled one of the very first stoner rock compilations, called Stoned Revolution: The Ultimate Trip.

The magazine I was working for sadly called it a day in 1998 and then one of my best friends, Peter, came to the rescue. He developed the Roadburn website, so I could continue to publish my writings and report about the stoner scene. Roadburn’s Jurgen joined me in this quest as he was writing for the same magazine.

Around then I also started to work at a corporate record store, and what should have been a lot of fun turned out to be the biggest nightmare in my life. I suffered a severe burn out. Luckily, Roadburn kept me going, and has been a lifeline ever since. Roadburn’s the embodiment of who I am as a person. It’s my heart and soul.

Describe your first musical memory.

My parents and my kid sister loved classical music a lot, and this was the only music around the house. It drove me literally crazy – to this day, I still don’t listen to classical music at all. It simply doesn’t appeal to me. However, I admire these musicians, as I know how difficult it is to master their instruments.

When I was around eight years old, I got a small radio from my grandma, and I remember listening to foreign radio stations. I was heavily drawn to ‘60s music, and rock — think Golden Earring and the likes.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

I have seen so many bands and legendary shows in the past 33 years, it’s insane. I met a couple of lifelong friends at shows, and those are my best memories, of course, as friendship is one of the best things in life.

I was bullied a bit at high school, but that all changed when I saw a Thin Lizzy cover band at the aforementioned youth centre. I was just walking past, and heard these amazing guitars, so I decided to get in and see what was going on. The guy that bullied me a bit at school was at this as well. He was so surprised to see me there, we became lifelong friends.

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

Working at a corporate record store almost brought me to my knees, as it wasn’t about music, only about shifting units and maximizing profit. For me, music is all about heart and soul. I burned out and quit this job in the end to keep my sanity, however it took me a couple of years to recover. There are certain moments we need to make difficult decisions for Roadburn, as the festival needs to stay healthy business-wise. I find that very difficult, but in the end, I make sure that I’m still thriving on the social aspects of the festival. That’s my main goal.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Artistic progression leads to creativity, to beautiful books, movies, music, paintings, poems — food for thought! It will also lead you to fulfill your dreams. Dare to be different, dare to follow your own artistic path, push yourself artistically, as it will bring you so much more than financial gain.

How do you define success?

For me, success is staying true to yourself. Plain and simple.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

I have seen way too many people doing the wrong kinds of drugs, and people wasting their artistic progression or opportunities, because all they wanted to do was get high and blame others for their misery. It’s such a shame. I also have seen much sadness and pain while helping out Alzheimer patients and their families. On the other hand, it shaped me as the person I am today, and shaped my own beliefs.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

I could do a standup comedy routine about all that I have seen in the music business, or even write a book about all the shenanigans I have witnessed. Maybe it’s time to get started. As I said, push yourself artistically, and make friends, and enemies along the way.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

I hope my mother-in-law will recover from her major surgery. Luckily the cancer has gone. She still has a long way to go, though.

7Zuma7, “Blue T.S.” from Stoned Revolution: The Ultimate Trip (1998)

Walter Roadburn on Thee Facebooks

Roadburn Festival

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