Q&A: Ryan Martin Talks Savage Weekend VI, Starting at Nightlight Tomorrow | Music
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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Q&A: Ryan Martin Talks Savage Weekend VI, Starting at Nightlight Tomorrow

Posted by on Thu, May 12, 2016 at 5:38 PM

click to enlarge Ryan Martin - FILE PHOTO BY JUSTIN COOK
  • File photo by Justin Cook
  • Ryan Martin

Ryan Martin does not seem to mind the logistics of booking ninety bands during two days. Instead, Martin—as a musician, label head, and promoter, the area’s most steadfast experimental impresario—views his Savage Weekend as an ad hoc family reunion for international power electronics powerhouses, harsh noise blasters, and drone sculptors.

Martin’s sixth-annual symposium of abrasion gathers touring festival standbys, like the great Rat Bastard, with prime locals, including Lack and Housefire. Martin’s also recruited some of his more recent favorites, including the damaged blasts of Chicago’s HOGG. For more than ten hours each day, the acts cycle through quarter-hour sets, each reevaluating the day’s dynamic in real-time.

“People are vibing off of each other,” he says. “That’s one thing I appreciate across small music scenes—there are people encouraging in such a positive way. It’s a dialogue.”

Savage Weekend starts Friday afternoon and runs late Saturday night.

INDY: Across six years, Savage Weekend has started to feel like a slowly expanding family reunion. Is that something you foster?
RYAN MARTIN: There is that vibe, and that’s part of the appeal—seeing so many people you’re associated with or played shows with or set up shows with, all in one place. People will play again and return each year, so that fosters that reunion aspect. But I try to also make sure people play who haven’t played before play each year.

In booking Savage Weekend, to what extent do personal relationships come into play versus, you know, booking agents or the like? What’s that process?
I would set up shows at my house, and I had this idea of presenting all these people who’ve done amazing sets but for between ten or thirty people got to see it when they came through town last. I wanted to do something to make it more accessible and bring it out of the obscure, secret location by bringing it into a legal venue that can accommodate so many people. One of the things I think about is, if I go on tour and see a band I like, I just have them play Savage Weekend. It’s such a small scene that it is a team effort, with people coming together.

It’s so small. You get in touch and ask them if they wanna play. A lot of people are very excited to come down and play because they’ll be with other artists and figure it will be pretty fun. I’ve never had to deal with any booking agents or anything like that. I couldn’t imagine dealing with anyone with a booking agent or having to go through those channels. It’s much more personal.

It’s driven by friendship?
There’s common interest. I wouldn’t say I’m close friends with everybody who’s playing, but I will have had positive interactions with them or really value what they do. I’m a fan of a lot of the people playing. I’m really excited to see what they’re gonna do.

You record and tour and promote so many shows in the area. To what extent is Savage Weekend an annual culmination of all those things for you, another marking post of where you’ve been and what you’ve been doing?
There’s definitely that element in terms of who ends up playing, especially the new faces. It’s people I’ve gotten into in the past year, like Truck Stop Strangler or Virus or HOGG. Those are all people I’ve played shows with either on tour or they were passing through and I got into their stuff. It’s where my head is at these days. A lot of people who are playing just asked me to play, and I have a loose booking style with that. If people ask me first, I’ll just put ’em on the bill. It’s a combination of stuff I’ve seen or been into and also people who I’ve liked in the past.

Sometimes there’s people where I don’t know what they’re gonna do, but I’m just interested in seeing something fresh. I feel like people tend to really step up their game for Savage Weekend, because they have such a limited amount of time, and they’re around people whose stuff they like. They try to bring it extra hard. They condense what they do best into these shorter sets. It’s interesting watching momentum build. People are vibing off each other. That’s one thing I appreciate across small music scenes—there are people encouraging in such a positive way.

You goad each other along?
Yeah, I feel like it’s a dialogue. You’re checking out these people. They’re doing something you respond to. That just feeds the fire.

What additions excite you this year?
There’s a lot, so I’ll just give a few names. There’s Truck Stop Strangler, from Kansas City. I saw them play there, and he’s doing some really interesting things, sort of a narrative-based take on power electronics. The music is really beautiful, and there’s a performative aspect to his live presentation. Virusse, I’ve been really enjoying that. I have to look at the schedule. It’s kind of overwhelming. [Pauses to look at the schedule.]

Forced into Feminity played an amazing set last year. A lot of people are excited to see her. I’ve seen her play a lot over the years, but the last time was just so amazing I’m excited to see what she’ll do. The list goes on and on.

Does seeing all these acts and having this reunion make the work of coordinating ninety bands easier?
I see almost all of the sets, which is really great. Despite the slightly overwhelming nature of it, it’s still really engaging. Because of the people at Nightlight, I’m in a real cushy position, too. I don’t do sound at Nightlight at this point. I’m having fun. We have other people who are working, doing the work, and I’m just helping people set up, corralling people. It’s not too hard. I just need to be present.

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