Nate Renaud – Founder – Calgary Metalfest

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Nate Renaud – Founder – Calgary Metalfest

On September 14th, 2016 the biggest rendition of Calgary Metalfest (CMF) will be kicking off it’s fifth year and the line up has been catching international attention. The big deal this year is of course the final night of the festival where attendees will be treated to a “Historic Night of Canadian Metal” featuring Annihilator, Exciter (original 1985 line-up), Razor and Sacrifice, all sharing the same stage on September 17th, 2016. The preceding nights have killer draws as well with The Exalted Piledriver headlining Thursday September 15th at the Distortion Music Venue and Toxic Holocaust, the only international act on the bill, will be tearing apart Dickens Pub on Friday night. The rest of the bill is packed with a selection of local heavy hitters and new acts that the founder of the festival, Nate Renaud, thinks you should check out.

Nate and Nancy auctioning off the CMF Poster. Photo © Monika Deviat
Nate and Nancy auctioning off the CMF Poster. Photo © Monika Deviat

The festival that started out as a two day birthday bash for Renaud in 2012, has now turned into a four day event that is gaining recognition outside of its local province of Alberta and even outside of Canada. Along with the three nights we’ve listed there will also be a free kick off party at the Ship and Anchor pub on the Wednesday night. CMF also features a charity auction that has raised $4000 for the Southern Alberta chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation over the last three years. This year, the goal is to sponsor a full wish for a child so bring your cash and credit cards if you’re attending!

Renaud has had, and still holds onto, many roles in the Calgary music community (not just in metal) ranging from roadie to sound tech to bassist and recently CEO of Big Nate Productions, which he runs with his business partner Nancy Barnes. Big Nate Productions is now the business that brings you CMF and also features a podcast called “Gettin’ Hard in Nate’s Backyard” where Renaud and Barnes interview various local and touring bands. There’s a recent interview with John Ricci of Exciter with guest host Dan Neild of Gatekrashör (the last call act on the Saturday night of the fest) that you should check out here.

Before he started his work with CMF and Big Nate Productions, Renaud was a familiar face towering over people in the Calgary metal scene and essentially a jack of all music trades. In 2003 he worked as a roadie for local Calgary act the Dino Martini’s. Then in 2004 he started recording records at the Slaughterhouse Studios until 2011 when he transitioned into doing live sound at various local venues. Renaud’s festival experience includes working for Scarab Productions and acting as the stage and production manager for the Noctis Valkyries Metal Festivals which were held annually in Calgary from 2007 until 2013. We sat down with Renaud to find out more about him, the fest and what went into setting up this year’s impressive line up.

MD: Let’s start with Big Nate Productions. Can you give me the back story of the business?

NR: I actually had to register a business once we got into CMF III (2014) because [headliners] Abigail Williams were from the states so I was forced to put a name to it just for tax stuff. I needed to be able to show the border that I had a registered company that was legitimate. I just called it Big Nate Production because everyone calls me Big Nate.

MD: How did you meet your business partner Nancy Barnes?

NR: I met her through her husband Bill who works at the SlaughterHouse Studios now. Nancy is a nurse; a bone nurse. The way I understand it, is Bill is kind of like me. He’s a sound guy. He was out on the road touring a bunch and while that was happening Nancy was at home, getting degrees and being a nurse. She didn’t really go out that much. Now that Bill doesn’t do that anymore it’s kind of like they reversed roles. Now Bill goes to bed at 9 o’clock and we’re out plotting all night. She’s pulling in her rain check for her 20’s and 30s or something and getting involved in the scene and going out to all the shows. She really enjoys it. Nancy is really good on the internets and she definitely doesn’t think the same way I do; so that’s a good thing in a business partner.

MD: You also have a few other staple crew members for CMF.

NR: There’s Richard Ealgesham. He worked with me at Noctis a ton, and it got to a point where I had him running stages – like second stages. He’s a buddy of mine, a guitar player and does a lot of stuff to stay in the business. Ryan Boyko, the drummer in my band, is my head drum tech. I basically trained all [my crew] through the Noctis festivals. 

MD: This year you could say CMF was split up into two festivals. Natefest (your birthday party) was held in June, the usual time for CMF, and now CMF V will be in September. What caused the split?

NR: The first year I put on CMF was the same weekend as Sweden Rock which kicks off the European festival circuit season. That basically ends the middle of August around Wacken. Bigger bands, like Annihilator for example, go over there and just play every single outdoor festival they can find.  

September is the same time that Terese [Fleming, owner of Scarab Productions] picked for Noctis, which I always thought was brilliant. It’s after the summer, right everyone goes back to school – which they didn’t want to do to begin with – so it’s that week or two later where they have cabin fever and they just want to go out again. Student loans come out. And it’s a full moon. When you factor all that in, everyone is more ready and available. 

Instead of trying to get world to bend to my whim, I just said there is no more Noctis so why not take that date in hopes of being able to book the higher profile talent. CMF III and IV were cool and I really enjoyed it…but for example, I’ve been trying to get Toxic Holocaust, who is playing this year, and they kept saying no. Joel [Grind, frontman] was always in the studio [in June].         

MD: You’ve been able to sang bigger bands previously in the middle of summer.

NR: At CMF II I lucked out and got touring bands Intronaut, Skeletonwitch and Scale the Summit. But it was purely by dumb luck that they happened to be touring that week. I was hoping that I’d be able to keep that momentum, especially after that one popped off. I hoped that would put CMF on the map. But something like that takes time to permeate into the psychology of the whole scene; especially with the people setting up the tours.

MD: Was it your experience at Noctis that lead you to start setting up shows and festivals in Calgary?

NR: I would say yes; seeing what Terese did and stuff and being her production manager – she went all out. In my old band Kilyakai we would set up shows and same with Kyoktys. Being in a band you put together your own shows. I don’t like to do one off shows. I do them to help out friends, but I really enjoy the big events like Metalfest. Sometimes we even try to combine both like with the Wheel of Death Metal [a show where bands are put on the bill but in order to find out their stage time have to spin a lottery wheel (of death)]. I try to make an event out of it instead of just a normal show.

MD: How did you get in with Noctis?

NR: The way I got in with Noctis was I worked at Monsters of Rock as a back-line tech. I was there pushing around amps in the background. I saw and I followed around the backstage managers like a lost puppy. They were so incredibly on it. It was fascinating to watch. That’s how I got in with Terese. I barely knew her at the time but one day I was just like hey I have this experience. I’ve never done it myself, but I know I could. So she said lets meet and we got together.

MD: Where did the idea for having a line up of what people are calling Canada’s Big Four come from?

NR: I was talking to Terese about it but I think I heard that Jef Thorell [Y3J Photography] came up with. But I don’t know, it’s been knocked around. Terese had talked about doing it a few years. It’s one of those ideas that I don’t really know where it came from but I know someone said something at sometime.

MD: So it was an idea that stuck in your head and for CMF V you went after those bands?

NR: Well yeah. I was like I want to make a big event out of this. I wanted to call it Canada’s Big Four too but when I talked to Jeff Waters from Annihilator he was like no way man, we don’t need to get sued over all this stuff.  I was like yeah no kidding, you don’t need some giant touring conglomerate coming after you for a stupid name or something.

I’m an opportunist and so I was like why not make it a historic thing and a Canadian thing. With all that said the Canadian dollar is doing shit compared to the American dollar. I wanted to be paying out in Canadian dollars and not USD.

MD: Which band did you get first?

NR: I believe it was Annihilator and it took a while just to get a hold of them. I had to go through a bunch of people. He’s [Jeff Waters] intentionally being hard to get a hold of, which I don’t blame him for. The negations for bands like that take a while. You start it and then a month or month and a half later something is finally cut.

MD: Did they all seem interested in the idea initally?

NR: Actually I kind of cut the deals with the bands individually first. I didn’t tell them what the idea was until they asked. And they didn’t say no…

MD: Did you have concerns about handling the requirements for bringing in act of that caliber?

NR: Oh absolutely not. I know who to talk to and where to go. Everyone at this level has very detailed technical riders and hospitality riders. But because [at Noctis] Terese always did the back end stuff, that’s where my weakest feature is. I need to find someone who is going to do all the fruit plates for example and handle allergies. So as long as I can source it out to experts its OK.

Flames Central has an amazing system and I’m the tech at the other two venues. When I worked backline at Monsters of Rock it was with KLM Backline and they have all the best gear, very expensive stuff you can rent.

MD: Annihilator has been elusive in western Canada for quite some time. What was it about the CMF pitch that convinced them to play?

NR: They make a lot of money in Europe so you would have to really want them to bring them. I think they’re just used to that European style where you’re traveling two or three hours between gigs instead of 18. And back in the day they used to do that. But I think that’s why they haven’t pursued playing in Canada so much. Its more efficient and lucrative to being doing it in Europe. If you’re doing well somewhere, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Annihilator is a funny band. They’re the highest record selling Canadian heavy metal band. They’ve sold three million records but most are over in Europe. I don’t know if anyone else has been pursuing them. To me it was kind of the clincher to make it the Canadian big four thing.

MD: The fest is still heavy on local talent. In previous years the number of local bands on the bill ranged from 40 to 80. How did you select your few for this year?

NR: Selecting bands for me is a hilarious process. Disciples of Power…I just love that band. They rule and I can’t believe they’re still playing. Every time I have an opportunity to put them in a slot I do. They just bring it. Then there’s other ones like the Order of Chaos. They’ve been over in Europe a few times the last year or two and they’ve been to China. They’re not the most popular band here but they’re selling out in Europe. To get that band on a buddy deal is a no brainer to me. To me working means you’re touring, putting out records. That’s why I put my band on one year – we put out a record. I don’t put us on every year because we’re not doing something every year. I definitely have a preference for people who are working and putting out material.

There’s other bands like Concrete Funeral who is opening up on Friday. They’re just a new band that came out of no where but they’re working hard, they’re very good and I think people need to see them. To be in front of a crowd that is receptive, a big crowd, is what every musician dreams of. I picked Savage Streets because they haven’t played in a long time. They might not be out touring constantly but they’ve become rare and when they do play its for a bigger thing. Crystal Mess has been around forever and they’re a good band. In years past where I did have 80 bands, I could just throw everyone on. This year I had to ask, are they good, are they working, are they overplaying?

Calgary's Dark Forest Photo © Monika Deviat
Calgary’s Dark Forest Photo © Monika Deviat

MD: Tell me about the charity auction that has become a big part of the event.

NR: Oh yeah. And first thank you, you will be donating to the charity auction again. At CMF II we started the charity auction. I’ve always wanted to do things with charities. But for me its always been about it being local. I don’t want to just fire money at the Red Cross that goes to the blanket slush fund. I actually tried to get a hold of the Children’s Hospital first, but they said because of the imagery they wouldn’t accept our donation. It kind of makes sense; you have all the kids with cancer but you’re talking about death metal. So I got a hold of Make a Wish and they were all about it and didn’t care about imagery.

The auction is so much fun. It’s my favorite part of the festival because I get to guilt trip the crowd into giving money to kids that are dying. Which is terrible to laugh at but when you’re raising money, joking totally works. My friend Reverend Ross has this radio show “Too Metal for Church”.  He’s like this renegade reverend and he donated this double neck guitar last year. And you donated that photo of Cronos [Venom] from Noctis V that was printed on aluminum. This year I’m pretty sure we’re going to do it throughout the whole festival. We’re trying to get $10,000 to sponsor a full wish for a child.

MD: Any crazy metalfest stories you could share with us?

NR: Tyrants Demise played metal fest once. They were drinking in their van out back and the cops rolled up. I think someone tried to slam a door or said something smart ass and the cops came up to the band. They were going to arrest their guitar player. The whole band was like, “no man, we’re on stage in 20 minutes. The police actually came downstairs to watch him play because if he wasn’t playing they were going to arrest him.

MD: Anything else you’d like us to know?

NR: It’s the biggest festival no one knows about! Tell your friends. It’s going to be  great time. Come out so we can do it again next year!

Get your tickets for Calgary Metalfest V here!

Photo © Monika Deviat
Photo © Monika Deviat
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