Interview with Stefan Zaharescu

"For me, underground bands are the backbone of the future and we try to help out the local ones as much as we can."

Hi and welcome amongst the writings of Din Intunerec.

Hi, thank you for having me.

Rockstadt, Rockstadt Extreme Fest or Kruhnen Musik Halle ? Why?

I would say all three. I’m really proud and grateful we have three separate project going, all of them going with a strong ethic towards quality and respect. Every project of ours is special, Rockstadt was the thing that started it all and even though it’s a venue closed for nine months now, we are not giving up and plan to reopen very soon, keeping the same structure. A club/bar dedicated to live music, being it metal, rock or alternative, plus your everyday parties. Rockstadt Extreme Fest is now a well known project and only time will tell where this will lead. As for Kruhnen Musik Halle, it is a new and totally different concept that’s working great, keeping a focus on what’s mainstream and hip.

Kruhnen Musik Halle is a very interesting challenge, given that it has nothing to do with the metal subgenre, it was very interesting to see how we can manage on a very different level. I’m enjoing it anyway as I don’t consider myself a straight up metalhead. Good music can be found in most of the genres out there. So it’s great to experiment with new sounds and grounds.

Any plans regarding the reopening of Rockstadt soon? Do you think that the closing of the club as well as the delay to have it reopen is an abuse from the local authorities?

All signs point out to a reopening very soon. I don’t know about any abuse, but it’s absurd to work under regulations from the mid 90’s when you are working in 2017 in different circumstances, with different architectural norms and building materials. I think the law is to opened for interpretation and this leaves a lot of moving space for all parties envolved. That aside, the law should be applied to everyone. I think there should be a transparent dialogue between the authorities in charge and the people who lead this line of work, being it concerts, festivals or venues. Together we could probably come up with practical and up to date solutions and regulations to ensure the safety of all and also apply it in reality on all levels, without anyone being absurd when it comes to implementing. Right now the law is outdated and very unclear, some take advantage from this, others know the law better then the people in charge.

Is Kruhnen MusiK Halle a business that focuses on more commercial music and events ? Or is it a club alternative for big metal concerts when the capacity is lacking in Rockstadt?

It was never ment as an alternative for metal concerts. It is a venue focused on all sorts of genres, concerts and events, ranging from mainstream pop to hip hop, DNB, electro, 90s and rock. Of course we use the venue when we have a big metal show but apart from that it doesn’t have anything to do with the genre. For that we have Rockstadt and we like to keep things separate. Apart from that, I’m personally very proud of what we have achieved in less than a year, Kruhnen Musik Halle has become Brasov’s top venue. There’s only one place in Brasov where you can get an 800 sold out party with several hundred people waiting in line at the entrace.

How much of what you do is business and how much is passion?

There is no business without passion and at this level you can’t have the existence of passion without a level of business. I guess it depends on every goal you set. In everything we do, passion is always a priority and trust me when I say we lost a lot of money for thinking about passion instead of money. Some put money before passion and until a certain point I really can’t blame them. But that’s the way we work I guess, we are firstly fans of music and that’s the way it will always be. But of course, we try not to lose money in the process. H20 had a lyric in the song ‘What Happened’: Passion before fashion. That’s always the way I do things, no matter if it’s a 50 people show or 5000.

The 5th Edition of Rockstadt Extreme Fest has just come to an end. What is your personal opinion on the pluses and minuses toward the last 4 editions? What is your opinion on the criticism from the participants of this years Edition?

To be honest I didin’t get the chance to look at the pros and cons regarding the festival. In my oppinion, our biggest minus this year was the food. And we will make sure that next year’s going to be better at that level. Other than that, I think we managed to improve the camping ground and we did a pretty good job at it. Of course we have things  to improve, we mostly know what needs to be done and we try to do it, in the limits of our possibility. Not everything depends on us and there are some external and unpredictable factors to work with. Of course, the crowd pays a ticket to have a good time and enjoy decent conditions and we try to make it so.Some critics are exagerrated, some are very reliable and in the end we have a look at all of them and try to make the best out of it and improve the festival for next year.

Only an insider knows how much work goes into a festival of this magnitude. How many people have sacrificed their time to make the festival run smoothly?

Over the year, we are four people working for the festival. I take care of bookings, pre-production, promo and local logistics for example. The others take care of partnerships, sponsorhips, local crews, bars, accounting and so on. It’s an everyday job, sometimes we work 10 minutes a day, sometimes we do it 10 hours/day. It all depends. Of course, things chance at the festival. Taking in account volunteers, staff, bartenders and so on, I think we are around 120-150 people working on site.

I have seen posts online which state that some people think that people who work at this festival are chosen to perform because they are friends with the organizers. What is your opinion on this matter? How do you select who works as a volunteer, who does security, who serves the food, who the bartenders are and who run the merch tents?

To be honest I never heard of these rumours but if you take into consideration that some of the people working at the festival have been there since 2013, you can say it’s true, yes. The idea is that we like to think of ourselves as a family and we try as much as possible to have the same people every year. For example we have the same local crew from Rasnov, we have the same bartenders, same guys at the security in front of the stage, a majority of the volunteers are working with us since 2014, we have the same drivers since 2013, same merch crew from 2014…we consider ourselves a family and we try to change this as little as possible.

I noticed that this year, the stage was a different one from last year. Has the sound crew and rigging crew also changed? Are you pleased with their work?

Yes, it’s a totally different team from 2016 and we hope to extend our collaboration. If you take apart Adrian Rugina’s team, these are the best guys we’ve worked with. Some of the guys were actually in Adrian’s crew back in the day, they were present at the first two editions. We had the best sound this year, the guys were top proffesionals and we have only good words to share. Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for more.

How many of the bands that perform at REF are being contacted by you and how many of them contact you? How are the headliners chosen? Is there any chance for some black metal next year?

It always depends. We get a lot of offers for the festival, some with big international bands that can’t work at the moment, given the size of the festival. Some we reach out, most of the underground bands contact us. By now we have a very healthy relationship with the european agencies, sometimes we contact them, sometimes they contact us, sometimes we work everything out over a beer somewhere in Berlin. It always depends. I would say the future is very bright right now.  As for black metal, this is always very complicated. The few bands left that actually can fill the spot for a co-headliner/headliner act are indeed very expensive and sometimes It just doesn’t make sense at this level. But every year we try to bring out something. I have a few ideas for 2018, we’ll see.

Are the local underground bands a plus or a minus to this festival?

For me, underground bands are the backbone of the future and we try to help out the local ones as much as we can. My greatest joy this year is that we had local bands with up to 2000 people at the second stage. All their merch was sold out. The reaction was overwhelming. This is the boost they need to get things going. The second stage was created exactly for this, to help out the future. Underground bands will never be a minus at the festival, but it is true we are very selective when it comes to choosing who performs at our festival. The crowd deserves quality acts, big and small.

How many people from other counties have joined this 5th edition of REF? Did their number rise from year to year? Are you expecting an increase in future editions?

To be honest I have no idea. I know there are some hundreds that are visiting our festival every year and this will surely increase with the following edition.

There are rumours that the 2018 edition of the festival will change its location as well as it’s calendar date. Is there an official statement for this rumour?

Right now there is nothing official to offer. The festival has grown, it’s true. With the area and infrastructure we have right now, I believe this is the maximum it can take. We are looking into options of making the festival bigger in the same location. Roads are also a main issue in growing. But as I said, right now we are looking into available options, when we have something solid we will announce. Same thing with the date for next year. It won’t take very long though, infos will come up next week.

How soon can we expect to know next year’s headliners? With bands from what metal genres are you currently negotiating for next year’s edition?

I would say somewhere in November, it may be sooner. Right now there are some ideas for next year, some big ones, but until we know what’s going on with the 2018 edition, we have nothing to offer.  As for the genres, I dream of the day this festival will offer a mix between metal, hardcore, alternative, extreme music, industrial and so on.

What impression did this year’s public give you? How many congratulated you and how many did the opposite?

As I said earlier, I didin’t get the chance to look over the feedback. From what I saw, people seemed happy of the way things turned out. And they should be, this was the best edition yet and it’s all because of them. And by the looks of it, the best is yet to come.

We wish you the best of luck in what you are doing and many more successful editions in the future. Anything you would like to share with all REF fans?

I would just like to thank everyone for their support. Honestly, I never dreamt that this crazy idea of ours would actually draw over 5000 people/day at a metal festival in Romania. And this wouldn’t be possible without our fans. It’s their festival, not ours. We just work it out. And I promise that the lineup for next year will be even better than what we had this year. Frankly, there are so many bands that want to play in Romania that it’s getting hard to choose. I’m sure that next year we will have more bands performing for the first time here. Cheers to everyone, thank you!

photo credits: Miluta Flueras.

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