Q&A: Greg Anderson Of Southern Lord On This Weekend's The Power of the Riff And The Future of Sunn O)))

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Andrew Beardsworth
The Power of the Riff, the righteous metal and hardcore-encompassing spectacular that has bludgeoned heads the last couple of years exclusively on the west coast, makes its triumphant debut in Brooklyn this weekend. Organizers Greg Anderson (of Southern Lord and doom metal overlords Sunn O))) and Sam Velde (terrorizing frontman of L.A.'s Night Horse—acting on a tip from Brooklyn Vegan's Fred Pessaro—have brought with them a jaw-dropping lineup of acts on and off Southern Lord: NYC hardcore legends Agnostic Front and Detroit's Negative Approach will play alongside metal visionaries like Pentagram and Winter. As if playing the part of curator wasn't enough, Anderson and bandmate Stephen O'Malley will don their trademark gloom 'n' doom robes for a much anticipated appearance by their trailblazing, cataclysmic drone band.

Sound of the City caught Anderson at his Southern Lord office in L.A. to talk The Power of the Riff and the future of sunn O))); the interview started just as OFF! guitarist Dmitri Coats burst into his office.

Does Dmitiri from OFF! hang out at the Southern Lord office a lot?

[Laughs] Well, he actually rents out an extra office space that we have in our building. He has his OFF! stuff in there so he's in and out.

Was OFF! close to signing with Southern Lord instead of Vice Records?

No, not really. We did a 7-inch with OFF! about a year ago last summer. But we might work together in the future. We work well together and we really like what those guys do.

OFF! played The Power of the Riff in L.A. just recently, too.

Yeah, they were great. It was great to have'em there.

How did you go about choosing the non-Southern Lord'ers, like OFF! for the west coast version and Negative Approach and Agnostic Front for the east coast Power of the Riff?

It's myself and my partner Sam and we're basically act as curators for this thing and it goes beyond [being a Southern Lord band]; it's basically bands that we like. We're both huge music fans and there's ton of non-Southern Lord bands that we like [laughing]. It's really whatever we're into and friends of bands, as well. There's no real strict criteria. [Laughing]

Were bands like Negative Approach and Agnostic Front instrumental in your aesthetic trajectory, knowing you were immersed in the hardcore scene growing up?

The thing is, Sam and I both really kind of come from the same background and lot of similar tastes in music. We both grew up and got into underground music in the '80s and the hardcore scene and we have a lot of similarities as far as taste and things that we've gotten into over the years and worked together on here and there. People we've been involved with or labels and bands we've been involved with or friends with or whatever, there are lot of threads between him and I and that's what ends up coming out The Power of the Riff shows.

How did it come about that you'd bring The Power of The Riff to New York this year?

We'd been talking to Fred Pessaro from Brooklyn Vegan—he's an ally and a good friend of ours—and he suggested it, actually. We'd been slowly expanding this thing. We've done shows up to the coast and Power of the Riff would start in L.A. and then some of those bands will branch out and do San Francisco and Seattle. So, slowly, we're spreading our filth here and New York made a lot of sense to everybody [laughing]. New York's a great, great place for shows and really enthusiastic and supportive audiences. With Fred's help, we decided to give it a shot.

How do you compare the audiences in L.A. to that in New York?

It's different but I think the audiences there [in New York] seem to be a lot more rabid [laughing]—I guess that's the word. I don't want to say they are more enthusiastic [than the L.A. audiences) but they seem to be a little more selective and really dig into the underground stuff, whereas in L.A., people are kinda more like open to whatever. They are not as choosy or as particular to me as the New York crowd.

It seems to me in New York it doesn't really matter who you are or what band you are, people are gonna come to your show and you're gonna have some rabid fans there that know everything about what you're doing. I've noticed that all my entire life with New York—with whatever band I've been in, whatever size it is—there was never a bad show in New York. There is always a bunch of people that will go. I tell people, "If your band ever had a bad show in New York, you probably really suck." [laughing] It's like, in New York, you're always gonna have a good show there, whereas in L.A., that's not necessarily the case. L.A. can be very fickle and it's more difficult to actually put on shows [there]; the venues are fewer and farther between than in New York.

I've always had really great experiences in New York and New York's always been very supportive with anything I've ever done musically, especially now in the last couple of years with sunn O))). We've always had great shows in New York and great memories. We have a good following there.

Can you point to any shows sunn O))) played in New York that stand out?

Yeah we did a show in 2007 at the club that used to be the Limelight (Avalon)—an old church that was converted into a space. We played there with Boris and that was a great show. We also played a show a couple years ago at the Masonic Temple in Brooklyn with Eagle Twin and Pelican and I think Earth played that show, too. That was a special show. It was sold out and that venue was really unique and interesting and really old and that made for a really unique atmosphere at that show.

Location Info

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Warsaw

261 Driggs Ave., Brooklyn, NY

Category: Music

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