-- Dunk! gets shredded! --
On January 24th 2019 I was invited to an official press event at the headquarters of Dunk!Records in Velzeke, Zottegem. A record label dedicated to doom, sludge and post-metal and whose activities also include the yearly 3-day event Dunk!Festival as well as the vinyl production plant Dunk!Pressings. My good friend Sean Vali (head of booking agency Arawn Agency) offered me to interview several of Dunk!’s associated bands which were Astodan http://belgianmetalshredder.be/interviews/114), Celestial Wolves (http://belgianmetalshredder.be/interviews/110), Huracán (http://belgianmetalshredder.be/interviews/111), Lethvm (http://belgianmetalshredder.be/interviews/113) and Haester (http://belgianmetalshredder.be/interviews/112).
After shredding those five bands, Sean invited me into the snow-covered Dunk!Pressing plant to have a chat with three key members of the Dunk! crew which were founding member Wout, Dunk!Studio manager/engineer Jannes and main band liaison Joris. We talked about the origins of the Dunk! brand, their 2017 US edition of Dunk!Festival, the international and multicultural brotherhood among the Dunk! audience and the fact that both of Dunk!Festival’s stages are located deep in the woods of Velzeke. All pictures by Elien Swinnen (https://www.elienswinnen.com).
BMS: I’ve got to say that I’m very impressed by what you guys have built up here over the past fourteen years. Dunk!Records, Dunk!Studio, Dunk!Pressing, Dunk!Magazine and of course, Dunk!Festival. But I’ve heard that the entire Dunk! brand started as a basketball club.
Wout: Yes, back in 2005 we organized the inaugural edition of Dunk!Festival as a means of doing something else other than the usual food and drinks events every other sports club does each year and so hoping to bring in some more money. Our first few years were financially difficult, but after the second edition we decided to turn Dunk! into a non-profit organization and as the festival grew, we began expanding the brand, eventually adding in the recording studio and the rehearsal room you visited earlier tonight, the record label and of course the vinyl pressing plant where we’re in right now.
Jannes: Although we’ve always loved the post-rock and post-metal genres, we originally tried to avoid getting that label, because we wanted to promote ourselves as a rock festival for everyone. In addition to post-rock we also include such subgenres as neoclassical, stoner and doom metal bands on our festival rosters. Eventually we did start promoting ourselves as a post-rock event since the majority of our lineups consists of bands related to that experimental subgenre.
Wout: And we still got many members from the basketball club voluntarily helping us out as bartenders and doing other chores. So yeah, we’re still one wholesome family!
BMS: Great! So, this year is your fifteenth edition of Dunk!Festival. Are you planning to do anything radically different compared to the previous years?
Jannes: From the visitor’s perspective, not much will be different, but we may consider moving some of the merch stands to here, inside the factory. Usually we also change the stage light setup every year but we’re not doing that this time since last year’s setup was excellent! Instead, we’ve focused on improving things behind the scenes.
BMS: I also noticed you’ve got two stages. One paid access main stage and a free access stage in the forests of Velzeke. That’s pretty cool!
Wout: Yeah, in the past we had the main stage in a tent, like so many other festivals do. But more and more bands requested to play on the forest stage. So we decided to have both stages in the forest since it makes the experience that more unique for both bands and visitors. And as always, one of them will remain free entry.
BMS: I see. And over the years, you’ve built up quite an international audience.
Joris: In fact, most of our audience comes from outside of Belgium. For instance, one of our main visitors is a guy from India who travels six days to get here and then another six days to get back. We also had a Romanian dude who shot a documentary here and it took him two weeks to hitchhike from his Romanian home to here and back. We also had a few folks who come here and spontaneously help us out with the practical stuff.
Wout: One of the most beautiful aspects about Dunk!Festival is the huge international and multicultural camaraderie that flourishes among the attendants. Everyone who visits the festival comes for the sole purpose of having a good time with familiar and new faces and to enjoy the variety of music acts that we present each year.
BMS: Yeah, I’m pretty curious to check out this year’s Dunk!Festival.
Sean: You do that, man!
BMS: I think I will. Right, in 2017 you organized an American edition of Dunk!Festival.
Joris: Indeed, a few years ago we got contacted by David Zeidler, who works for the record label A Thousand Arms as well as writer for the blog Arctic Drones. He offered us to co-organize a US version of Dunk!Festival. In 2016 we travelled to the US to meet up with David and eventually we organized an edition of Dunk!Festival in Burlington, Vermont in October 2017.
Wout: Although the draw wasn’t large enough to cover all the costs, our local partners there took inspiration and now they’ve organized their own event called Post. Festival as a sort of spiritual successor to the inaugural US Dunk!Festival. Their festival’s 2019 edition will take place at October 4th and 5th in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Joris: And so we now do plenty of cross-promotion between each other’s audiences. All for the better!
BMS: Indeed. It saves you a lot of work, money and trouble, plus I believe that in the long run, you may end up dunking your way back to the US. But let’s talk about the actual plans Dunk! has for the foreseeable future!
Jannes: We’ve got plenty of things going on at the moment, those include expanding the recording and rehearsal space we can offer to our customers.
Joris: Currently we have one recording studio, which was the barn we visited earlier, but we want to build a more advanced recording room. We also want to get the rehearsal room fully operational.
BMS: I see, plenty of ambition! I like it! Now time for a classic BMS question, what do you guys do in life aside from the Dunk! operations?
Wout: I play drums in my hometown post-metal band Stories From The Lost and I play basket during my weekends. Other than that, not much else. I’m one of the founding members of the Dunk! brand and since our ambitions are high, our individual work rates are high as well.
Joris: Aside from being Dunk!’s main liaison between the Dunk! crew and the bands playing at the festival, I also play guitar in my own hometown instrumental post-rock act called Celestial Wolves. I’m very proud to be part of the Dunk! family.
Jannes: If I’m not supervising the Dunk!Studio then I’m helping Wout and the guys out right here in the Dunk!Pressing plant. And those two things together take up most of my time.
BMS: Once again, I must say that I’m very impressed with your entire operation here, hidden between the forests and fields of Velzeke! I’m glad that I was here! So, is there anything that you wish to add before I let the lovely Ellen here take a picture of us all?
Wout: Thanks for your time. It was a long night for all of us but we’re glad you came over to shred us and several of our associated bands! Be sure to check us out at https://www.dunk-music.com/ ! That’s our main hub website where you can read everything about the festival, record label, vinyl pressing and more! And below the picture you'll find me and my band Stories From The Lost playing two of our songs right here on the Dunk! premises!