In Norse mythology, the meaning of the word Valkyrie is ‘Chooser of the Slain’. The Valkyries were female figures, who chose those who were to die in battle. The Valkyries then brought their chosen, who have died bravely in battle, to the afterlife hall of the slain, known as Valhalla. The Valkyries were considered daughters of royalty. It is only fitting, that this festival, which is a celebration of strong and talented women voices in heavy music, is called the "Flight Of The Valkyries", because these women are more or less heroes and have a kind of mythical presence to them in the fact, that they are not supposed to be doing what they do… At least, according to some.
For far too long, the heavy metal genre has been a boy's club for the most part. Women were not taken seriously as musicians and other than video vixens or band groupies were pretty much dismissed. There were some exceptions, but they were few and far between and drastically outnumbered by the testosterone-driven fan base, that supported heavy metal. Women like Doro Pesch (WARLOCK / DORO) and Wendy O.Williams (PLASMATICS) and bands like GIRLSCHOOL and THE RUNAWAYS were all pioneers in this genre. Since then, women have followed their lead and fought, clawed, kicked and screamed their way into respectability. The new millennium spawned an explosion of women in metal and the movement has been gaining ground ever since. And guess what? I have got news for everyone out there....These women aren’t going anywhere! They are strong, they are talented, they are loyal to their roots and yes, they are true Valkyries!
The festival was spawned from the creative geniuses of Nathan Block and Bobbie Dickerson - two music promoters, who wanted to do something just a little different than what everyone else was doing. Inspired by the goddess of metal, miss Doro Pesch, who back in early 2007 happened to be touring in the States and when the idea for the Valkyrie festival came to life. DORO herself agreed to be the headliner of the very first “Flight Of The Valkyries” festival and along with bands such as VAINGLORY and SIRENS OF TITAN, they made their mark in heavy metal history. It was a very proud day for metal and for women all over the world as well. The second year brought the bands UNEXPECT from Canada and SHADOWSIDE from Brazil as co-headliners along with an up and coming band called BENEDICTUM and others such as DENDURA and VISIDEON. The crowds were growing and the buzz was getting bigger as well, the female-fronted festival was now officially a success and was guaranteed at least one more year. Now in its third year, the festival seems to have earned its street credit in the metal community and this year's headliners are Valkyrie vets BENEDICTUM, who will be sharing the stage with LUNA MORTIS, ROTT (they are replacing the band BLOOD CORPS, who have been in a bad car accident recently!), A.D.D., SIRENS OF TITAN, KAPTOVATING KATE , HYDROGYN and TODESBONDEN.
Metal Maidens caught up with one of the promoters, Bobbie Dickerson, to get her view on the festival and what it means to women in the scene....
Hello Bobbie, thanks so much for spending some time with us today.
Bobbie Dickerson: “Thanks to you and the Metal Maidens for this opportunity.”
Can you tell us in more detail, how the "Flight of the Valkyries" festival came to be?
Bobbie Dickerson: “Back in 2007, my friend and co-promoter Nathan Block had been wanting to do a festival celebrating females in the metal scene and at that time, as fate would have it, Doro Pesch was touring the States. Nathan contacted her booking agent and told him his idea for a female-fronted metal festival and he asked if it would be possible to have DORO's tour stop come through St. Paul on a Saturday, so she could be headliner. The agent agreed and the very first "Flight of the Valkyries" festival was born.”
What is the venue like to play and what should fans know about it?
Bobbie Dickerson: “The show will be in St.Paul, Minnesota (USA) at a venue, called Station 4, which is an indoor facility, that holds about 600 people standing room only. Doors are at 3 PM and show time is at 3:45 PM. BENEDICTUM, our festival headliner, is scheduled to hit the stage at 11:30 PM. The venue is made up of two large rooms: the main room with the stage, which is 16+ and a separate bar area, that is 21+ only and looks out into the main room with the stage. The main event room will also contain vendors. The venue also serves food, so no one will miss part of this awesome day of metal!”
I realize the festival is still fairly new, but have you ever thought about possibly doing more than just the one show?
Bobbie Dickerson: “Wow! That would be great and is definitley something we would like to consider in the future. However, at this time we are still concentrating all our energy on having one incredible festival year after year. Hopefully, we will continue to grow and attract even more fans, bands and sponsors, that will support us in this growing effort as well.”
Who gets to pick the final bands, that will be actually playing?
Bobbie Dickerson: “Nathan and I both get to determine what bands we invite to the festival. We get alot of emails during the year from bands who want to attend, but unfortunately we can’t accomodate everyone. We also have to work within a budget like a lot of people these days, so that makes it tough when there are so many great bands to choose from. But you have to decide how to spread the budget to create a really solid festival with every band bringing both something unique and complimentary to the stage.”
There must be certain logistical problems with getting all these bands together for one show. Is that the main reason most of the bands are from the US?
Bobbie Dickerson: “That is correct! Coordinating with eight bands from many different areas can be challenging. This year we faced the particular challenge of whether or not to bring in a band from outside of the country. With the state of the economy when we began our planning last year (and even still), we recognize that things are tight for everyone unfortunately, even in the metal community. As much as Nathan and I are both huge metal fans and want to do everything we can to help bands, fans also have to understand that this festival is a business and can't run without some money going back into it year after year. If we paid a lot of money to bring in a band from another country and then, due to the poor economy, couldn't recoup our investment from the ticket sales, we might have to call a hiatis (or quits altogether) like I know some other festivals have been forced to do, because of hard financial times. Undeniably, there are many great bands from overseas, South America and Canada. Next year, it is our intention to return to be able to extend invitations to our metal friends abroad as well.”
What are some of the things you think the festival and its fans can do to make it a mainstay every year?
Bobbie Dickerson: “As promoters, we have to keep things fresh and exciting and we try to do that by keeping our ears open to new bands and just listening to the buzz about who is doing what. The internet and the whole social networking thing is an amazing and very helpful tool to have, when it comes to finding new bands and as always word of mouth is the key as well. We also have to listen to the fans and try to give them what ‘they’ want. All we ask of the fans is, that they support the festival by coming to the show and telling others, who love metal with female vocals, about us. We also encourage the fans to support the bands, who are playing the festival, by buying their CDs, t-shirts and other merchandise. We are so grateful to all of the fans, bands and supporters out there, who have worked with us to spread the word about the "Flight Of The Valkyries" festival. Their support is what ables us to continue bringing more greate female-fronted metal bands together in the US.”
Other than the killer lineup of bands playing this year, what other kinds of things might fans expect to see at the show?
Bobbie Dickerson: “CD Inzane and Femme Metal will be on-site as festival vendors selling some great metal CDs and DVDs. We will also have "FotV III" festival t-shirts and other merch and several bands will also have merchandise available in the main room with the stage. We are in the process of coordinating signing sessions, but most of the bands tend to make themselves pretty available through out the entire festival day for photos and autographs. We are also working with BENEDICTUM on a bit of an 'FotV on-stage after party' to follow after BENEDICTUM's set that night. BENEDICTUM will host a short set with a few special performaces, including other perfomers from the festival and guest vocalist Nina O. from BLOOD CORPS (as some of you may already know, BLOOD CORPS was originally set to open FotV III, but had to drop from the bill and has been replaced by ROTT).”
I read a quote from you saying, you think the Valkyries show is "generational". What exactly did you mean by that?
Bobbie Dickerson: “At the shows we see a wide variety of people there supporting the music they love, but what is so cool to me is that there seems to be no generation gap in heavy metal. We see fans in their 40's and 50's, who bring their kids to the shows and the kids are just as much into it as the adults. We see kids, who are sixteen or seventeen and bring their parents, who seem a little skeptical at first and then by the end of the night, they're rocking out too. When you look out into the crowd and see families getting together to share their love of music, it really makes you appreciate what we are trying to do here - create a community out of those that love and support this music. I really don’t think you see a lot of that in other genres of music.”
What are some of the things you like about the women in the scene today and some of the things you do not like?
Bobbie Dickerson: “The women in heavy metal are survivors. They are strong and passionate and extremley talented and (for the most part) they deserve all the attention they are finally getting. I do not like how some women feel they have to flaunt their sexuality just to get ahead these days. There are a few bands out there with limited talent, who run right out to find the first hot girl they see and throw her up on stage or put her on a CD cover just because female-fronted metal is the ‘in’ thing, as they see it and they are looking to cash in as quickly as they can. I hate this kind of thinking, because it diminishes what the legitimate, talented women in the scene are doing and have worked so hard to achieve. I tend to liken the beauty used to sell female-fronted metal, to the gore used to sell death metal, it's part of the imagery that goes along with that style - sure, but if all you've got is a cool looking album cover and no talent to back it up, you're not going to last long with metal fans as your critics. In the long run, when the dust settles only the bands with ‘real’ talent will be left standing. After all, you cannot fool a true metal fan.”
Who are some of your favorite bands and if given the oppurtunity what bands would you like to see play the festival in the future?
Bobbie Dickerson: “My favorite bands are what I like to call my "Holy Trinity Of Metal" (a phrase I borrowed from Lorri V. of SixSixtySix.net) and they are Doro Pesch (WARLOCK), DIO and IRON MAIDEN. Bands with female vocalists, who I would like to see play the Valkyries festival someday are probably too many to name, but a few high on my wish list would be GIRLSCHOOL, AFTER FOREVER (if they ever got back together), HOLY MOSES, LITA FORD, DELAIN, CRYSTAL VIPER, BEAUTIFUL SIN and most definitely a reunion of one of my favorite bands, CHASTAIN, particularly with vocalist Leather Leone (if anyone can find her). Getting any of those bands would be awesome!”
Are there any hints you can give us as to who might be on the roster for next years show?
Bobbie Dickerson: “We have actually spoken to several bands about performing at next year's FotV festival and we plan to have at least two of those finalized to announce at this year's festival ... but you've got to come to the festival to get that info before anyone else. Haha!”
Is there anything you would like to add about the show?
Bobbie Dickerson: “I understand times are tough, but the tickets to the festival are very reasonably priced so that anyone can attend. We would love to have this year's show sell out, but the success of this year's festival in now in the hands of our fans. Please come out to the show and support the women of heavy metal. I guarantee, you will have a great time and get to meet some very cool people as well.”
Bobbie, on behalf of myself and Metal Maidens, we really want to thank you for taking some time with us today and also thank you for what you are doing for women in the scene and for the music, that we all love. You, my friend, are most definitely a Valkyrie!
Bobbie Dickerson: “Thank you Nick and Rita of Metal Maidens. We hope to see you both at the show!”
Greetings, Veronica! Thanks for stopping by to chat with us today...
Veronica Freeman: “Well, the pleasure is indeed all mine!”
This is the second year BENEDICTUM has been asked to play the “Flight Of The Valkyries” festival, but this time you are headlining the event. Other than the obvious amount of playing time being more, how much different is it to do a headlining set as opposed to where you played on the bill last time?
Veronica: “To be honest this whole thing was quite a surprise for us. We got a call asking, if we wanted to do the show again and a few calls later we were told we were headlining. Cool!!! I don’t see it as being too different, because last year we added a few songs, so we could do a special thing with Dani from SHADOWSIDE. We will just make it a return party this year! Can’t wait!”
How do the guys in the band feel about a festival that celebrates "Female voices"?
Veronica: “That is the biggest blessing I have. These guys are so cool about this stuff. They love women - hahaha! Seriously though, I have always thought it takes that much more of a man to work with a female fronted situation. Sometimes the dynamic is just a bit different, but for the most part we are just one big family anyway, so that is cool. They will have as much fun or more than I will, I assure you!”
Do you know how long your set will be and what can fans expect to hear?
Veronica: “We will throw in some different tunes from last time. I would really like to do “Uncreation” in the set. Also we have had some requests for “Balls to The Wall” again, since we brought people up on stage. This time I want the whole damn crowd involved. One kick ass sing along! We will probably play for about ninety minutes.”
You always seem to have some sort of surprise up your sleeve Veronica, when it comes to your live set. Any hints you can give us for this year?
Veronica: “If you bribe me I might tell you, but since no bribes have come my way, I ain’t talkin’... (lol)”
BENEDICTUM is a band, that has had a huge following in Europe. It seems, that finally the rest of the planet has caught up with the fact that this band cannot be ignored any longer. Can you explain the band's success overseas and why it took a while for people to wake the hell up everywhere else?
Veronica: “Aaah yes… Well, our label was based out of Europe and the bulk of the promotion was there as well. We have been told we have a very European sound, so that helped us too. It is so very true, that we are just being discovered out here. Now it appears we are getting some cool shows in the States and we are thrilled. The week before FOTV we are headlining our first show here in Phoenix at the Clubhouse on June 20th, then we play the Colorado Springs Music Festival on July 25th and have a show in the works at the House of Blues in Anaheim CA. I am thrilled with the prospects of what is going on over here!”
There are some very talented and interesting bands on the bill this year. Have you had a chance to chat with any of them or been able to hear their music?
Veronica: “The rest of the band has, but I have not. I am constantly in overwhelm stage, so today is catch up day for me and I plan to do just that! Honestly, I plan on planting my happy ass right there in the venue and being a fan of every band that is playing. I want to enjoy the show, too!”
Do you feel you might be able to give some advice to the newer bands about what to expect at the festival?
Veronica: “I think, it will be a bit fewer bands this year, which may actually be a better thing. Stick and move I always say…. All I know is, that when we were there last year, there was an awesome eclectic mix of music as well and the atmosphere was totally cool!”
You command so much respect from your fans as a musician and as a person, what is it that you think makes fans identify with you and this band so well?
Veronica: “Wow, what a cool thing to say! I think it is, because we keep it as down to earth as possible. For me personally, getting to do something I love is a gift, so I hang on to each moment and want to have fun with it. The rest of the band is pretty much that way, too. We get down to business, but really don’t have time for attitudes and all of that. I mean give me a break, the music business is tough enough as it is, we should stick together not try to compete or cut others down. That’s how we look at it. I can’t control what others do, but I choose to see it that way.”
Is there a difference between the European fans at your live shows as opposed to those in the U.S. and Canada?
Veronica: “As far as the actual fans… There’s not really that much of a difference once they get into it. On a broader spectrum I would say, that European fans as a whole accept and enjoy a higher diversity of genres. You can have a festival over there, that will have death, grind core, traditional all sorts of metal and the fans will enjoy each band with the same enthusiasm, plus no violence - that helps, haha. But there really isn’t anything like playing on home turf too. People are still getting to know us here and that works for me… Bring it - we love it!”
As the "godmother" of the festival this year (haha), what are some of the things you would like to see in the future and things that in your opinion need to be improved upon?
Veronica: “The founders of FOTV have worked so hard and tirelessley from my experience with them. The only thing I would like to see are more people in the audience enjoying all the of the talent, that will be there for that special evening!”
Veronica, I want to thank you for taking time with us today. It has truly been an honor to speak with you. I hope the “Flight Of The Valkyries” festival is a huge success this year and you and the band have a lot of fun. I know BENEDICTUM will kick the crowd's asses, just like it does every night on stage.
Veronica: “Well, with all of that being said...will YOU be there?? Put your money where your mouth is, be at the show and head bang with us!!! See you there and thanks again!”
And here are the other bands, that will be playing at the “Flight Of The Valkyries” festival...
A.D.D website: http://www.addloud.com
A.D.D My Space site: http://www.myspace.com/addloud
LUNA MORTIS My Space site: http://www.myspace.com/lunamortismusic
KAPTIVATING KATE My Space site: http://www.myspace.com/kaptivatingkate
Julie Westlake website: http://www.juliewestlake.com
HYDROGYN website: http://www.hyrdogyn.com
HYDROGYN My Space site: http://www.myspace.com/hydrogyn
SIRENS OF TITAN website: http://www.sirensoftitan.org
SIRENS OF TITAN My Space site: www.myspace.com/sirensong
TODESBONDEN website: http://www.todesbonden.us
TODESBONDEN My Space site: http://www.myspace.com/todesbonden
ROTT website: http://www.rottband.com
ROTT My Space site: http://www.myspace.com/rottband
This amazing group of talented female and male musicians have worked very hard to get here, so the very least we can all do as fans is to go out and support the show! Check out their CDs and help spread the word about this very cool and unique showcase featuring women in metal! Thank you... Nick.
written by: Nick Rohm / Metal Maidens June 2009