Sunday, at Den Smagløse Café, I finally got some time to talk to some of the people behind Metal Mekka. I have only seen them ”in action”, at concerts, but my intention is to get always behind the scenes not only for the bands but also for Metal Mekka, to understand where their enthusiasm and motivation come from.
So, yes, on one hand, the title refers to my experience of meeting Siw, Claus, and Christian. But more important than my personal discoveries is that this is exactly the experience of their public, the people who go at the concerts organized by Metal Mekka and discover new bands, music, friends. And that’s inspiring and worth telling.
Siw is the only girl on the team and she tries to keep things organized and structured. She takes care of the volunteers, the fundraising, the marketing, and PR. She graduated administrative management and has just applied for law school while working in a theater. She also managed to convince her father that she was not smoking weed while listening to Dire Straits, that metal rock is not satanic and that being part of the rock community is good for her. More than that she also earned his admiration and respect for everything she does.
Christian is the guy with the bands. He contacts them, books them, makes the contracts, the deals, the details. He is a student at History right now and wants to apply for Middle East Studies.
Claus is the ”octopus”. He used to do all things related to organizing concerts, but now his role is to help and teach the new people how to do it. He is historian involved in different projects: works as a vikar for 0-9 grade pupils and he is a project employee at Copenhagen ZOO where he is doing historical work. And he was part of the Green Peace group in Odense.
I try to find out as much as possible about them. I enjoy the discussion that flies from the night before party, to exams, hopes, dreams, weather, festivals, former boyfriends, family.
”It’s kind of surprising how little we speak about our ”normal” life when we are in the Mekka group. It’s all about the metal when we meet” says Siw as a conclusion.
Ok, let’s talk about metal then. About Metal Mekka.
How was Metal Mekka born?
Claus: Metal Mekka was here for some time, somewhere, somehow. In 2012, a group of new people joined, I included. My intention was to influence what kind of music comes to Odense. Because before that, few bands came, and I really wanted to be able to get some of the more marginalized bands that people didn’t know. I wanted to surprise the public with black metal, extreme metal, anything that they haven’t listen to before. And that’s what’s happening now: the more we talked about it, the better concerts, the better community.
What about the name, what does it stand for?
Claus: We didn’t create the name, we inherited it. The explanation is that Odense is geographically in the middle of Denmark, so it can be the center of metal. More than this, Odense used to be one of the primary grounds for metal concerts. a lot of bands came from Odense in the 90’s.
Siw: When I was 14, Odense was a really good metal town with a lot of concerts, almost every weekend.
Christian: There was also a metal bar at the time that closed in 2012 and now is a karaoke bar. It was the coolest bar and after it closed, rockers kept going there although there was no rock there.
How do you make concerts happen?
Claus: We meet and talk. Everybody has a word to say, a preference, a suggestion. We show each other what we have discovered and then everybody should agree on the bands with arguments, and more than ”well, I like them, they are my favorites, let’s bring them!”. We are doing something that in a sense it’s amateur professionalism, everything has to be done well even if it is nonprofit, it is a hobby. We do what we do because we love the people, we love the music. Everything comes from inside.
Christian: Then I contact them and see if they want to come and if yes, what is possible and what is not. For example, an Italian band wrote to us and ask if we can arrange something for them. So, yes, let us see what other bands we can bring, to match them with. So I contacted another band to put more together. We look at the conditions and terms, make all the agreements.
Siw: Then we book a place, talk to volunteers and establish all PR and marketing for the event. And also apply for fundraising.
How long does this take?
Claus: It can take from a week to several months, but a week would be bad.
”Metal Mekka is becoming more and more popular and bands are starting to contact us”.
Siw: I was in Copenhagen for Easter holiday and I was in a bar, and I just mentioned very shortly that I was the booker for Metal Mekka and all of a sudden there were like 3 or 4 bands around me. ”Are you booking? Please, take our card, talk to our manager and the next day I was having like 8 friend requests on FB. It was really nice to find that people are eager to come and play.
Why do you think this happens?
Claus: There are rumors about the quality of bands we select: we book metal, and we book good metal. It is cool to have bands which are well known, but it is even cooler to have small or medium bands that people didn’t know about. And they just discover them there, at the concert. I like when the public is surprised when I hear them saying: ”I didn’t expect to see this in Odense!”.
Cristian: Remember, even the biggest band was small one time!
Siw: We try to help the small bands, to get out, to get a gig. It is really nice to help somebody to get experience on the scene.
And this would be your reward?
Claus: This special feeling comes as the supreme reward. We had a band that nobody knew about it. and then we started to see them making a little bit of was in Europe, a few waves in Copenhagen. And they were really awesome and we believed people need to hear them.
So at their concert, I was just walking in and out, from the scene to the doors. And we got with them from “Hmm, who are they” to “fuck! this is great!”
Every time you create this experience for people, they will have a memory from something you did.
Siw: That’s why we are really involved and committed. We even make our own food for the bands. Allan, a member of the board, works as a chef and he makes the food for the bands, so it’s really good. And we also have a volunteer who studies to become a chef so he helps and practices at the same time. People are always telling us what nice is to play in Mekka.
It is special, you have been working for a concert for I don’t know how long, and then you are suddenly there and the band is playing and you can just see people hanging out enjoying and all you can think about is – we did this!
What about the money? How and where do you get them from?
Claus: Metal Mekka has been independent. We got support from the municipality once or twice last year, and we are opened to working with private sponsors, even if we haven’t so far. Any support helps and makes things easier.
Siw: Sometimes is hard with the money, to decide what is important to say and write in applying for funds. We also have people who support us, that are members of Metal Mekka. They pay 100 kr/ year and receive 10% discount at the music shop or cheap concerts. But most people just do it for support.
Has Metal Mekka changed your lives in any way?
Claus: It added fun and new friends to our lives. And more work, too.
Christian: The number of friends I have suddenly grown and now I know now a lot of musicians.
Siw: I found my boyfriend, so yeah, it really changed my life.
Have you thought of turning your passion into a job?, I ask them.
I get the first reaction from Siw: ”It would be the best job in the world!”
I would have thought that, too, but Claus brings in a new perspective: ”On the other hand, transforming it into a job/ business, could ruin it forever. Music is my hobby, it has been part of my life for the last 25 years, I don’t want to mess it up by doing it for business. But I admit that somebody come to me and says – hey you could book some bands for this festival and get paid, I will be happy. But, I don’t know, it is kind of dangerous to fuck up your hobby, with what you love.
I think just want it to remain like this, so I will always have “a place” to go.
And they agree in silence. So I follow them into their safe place: Are you also making music?
Claus: I am in a band, but we don’t have anything to show yet. But we will have his year.
Siw: I play the guitar. And I was part of a band as a teenager.
Christian already thinks if to book or not Claus’s band.
Plans, festivals and new stuff
9 June, 7.30 pm, Ungdomshuset Odense: They will launch Mekkáfee, a place to meet, sit and talk, listen to rock, drink cheap beer, compete in music quizzes. A place like no other. Literally.
Metal Mekka summer party will be on a day with nice weather, so the date is not known, yet. Follow them to join the party!
Festivals they will go to:
Metal Mekka autumn events:
Metal Mekka is a volunteer-based, nonprofit organization which wants to bring best metal music in Odense. It is run by 7 people brought together by the same passion for metal rock: Christian Jensen, Allan Børglum, Simon Long Krogh, Torben Frederiksen, Siw Christensen, Sebastian Mader and Claus Markussen.