The third annual Southwest Terror Fest—a homegrown heavy music festival born out of a drunken conversation several years ago by three friends—promises to be the most exciting installment yet. SWTF 2014 boasts a streamlined roster, a venue shift from The Rock to The Rialto (with after-parties at The District Tavern) and more stylistic unity than in years past, not to mention fans reportedly descending on Downtown Tucson from beyond national borders. The Weekly spoke with co-founders Dave Carroll and Larry Horvath recently about the past and present of the festival. (Also intrinsic to the organization and execution is David Rodgers, whose band Godhunter was on a northwest tour and will be performing on the second of four nights of the Fest.)
"Terror Fest got started back in the day when me and Larry used to curate the stage at Vaudeville of heavy music during Club Crawl," Carroll recalls. "One year, we had Godhunter play and we were talking with David about starting our own Fest, because we didn't get any love from the Tucson Weekly or whoever was behind Club Crawl because we were outside of the gates and the barricade."
Horvath adds, "We had this idea; let's do our own metal thing. We were kind of joking and having this drunken conversation. ... Dave and David got it rolling from there for the first year and I was called in to do some stage management."
While Carroll acknowledges that "mistakes were made and we learned from them" about the Fest's first two years and assures that "mistakes will be made this year, and we'll learn from them, too," he's very optimistic regarding the outcome of this year's model.
"I'm excited about the venue change," he says. "There's no harsh words to be said about the Rock. But without Ari Aho and Kent Van Stellie, there would not be a Terror Fest. They were very good to us the two years we were there. But it was, like, we were the chicks in the nest, and we needed to find our own wings and fly out from there and the Rialto has been really able to find those wings to a degree. The Rock was awesome, but moving it to Downtown Tucson—which was my vision in the beginning—just makes it awesome for everyone involved."
"To grow into a legitimate festival, we needed to be in a location with more amenities—closer hotels, closer restaurants and lots of different things to do besides the festival," Horvath explains.
The acts at SWTF 2014 are predominantly of the doom—or sludge-metal variety—a slow, droning and rhythmic variant of the sound pioneered by Black Sabbath, and found in this year's flagship band, Neurosis.
The process of putting so many bands in one place simultaneously begins with Carroll, Horvath and Rodgers.
"Basically every year before we start booking anything," Carroll says. "Me, David and Larry come up with a wishlist of who we'd like to see play—this is a fest for fans by fans—so we send out emails and whatever kind of replies we get that look optimistic—that's where we start working from. Once we get that solidified, we try to build around that. With sponsors, we try to keep it local. We do everything we can do in Tucson. Other than maybe one or two, all of the (sponsors) are all in the neighborhood, downtown and Fourth Avenue. And we're not afraid to dip into our own fuckin' pockets if we have to. It's an expensive hobby.
"The first year we did 33 bands and 63 bands last year. This year we're down to maybe to 32 bands. The first year it was, like, a who's-who of the ultra-underground, heavy music scene. This year, it's the upper tier of that. If you consider that we have Neurosis playing here in Arizona for the first time since 1999, a lot of cats are gonna flip their shit over that."
Both are adamant about SWTF not being about its creators, but about the music and community, or as Horvath outs it, "the amount of attention we've gotten this year from hard-copy and online magazines is incredible, and it gets us pumped and we hope that it pumps everyone else up, especially local. We're not looking to make a ton of money or glorify ourselves. This is just what we do and what we love."