In our latest Industry Spotlight, we chat to Northern Extremity promoter, Connor Sanders about his quest to bring the best heavy and extreme metal to the city of York.
What made you start the Northern Extremity nights?
I’m the current president of the University of York metal society, and we had noticed that although York is a lovely city, there wasn’t really much of a live metal music scene. The only guys who were putting on gigs were the folk over at Jorvik Underground, and although they do a cracking job, I thought it was unfortunate that such a great city had so little to offer in the way of diversity with regards to live music. I had organised small gigs before back in my hometown of Tamworth and figured that if you wanted something doing, it’s best to stop talking about it and go out and do it yourself. So initially, I started Northern Extremity as a way for the Metal Society to have something to look forward to once a month, but it soon became clear that the demand for more metal came from local people as well; so I decided to set it up as an independent night of my own.
What keeps you passionate outside of music – think movies, people and places?
Passionate about running Northern Extremity? Many things I guess. I tend to get incredibly down and bored unless I’m actively working moving towards a goal, so I take on a lot of stuff to keep myself motivated. Hence why I’m now running Northern Extremity and helping out with a new metal DJ night called Legion. I get a real sense of achievement and pride when bands come up to me and tell me that my shows are one of the best they’ve ever played, or when punters come up to me and thank me for putting on the gigs every month. I like to give people the opportunity to see bands in their hometown, and I enjoy the fact that I’m working towards changing the York metal scene for the better. I feel like the main thing that keeps me passionate about putting these nights on other than an obvious love for music, is the people involved. Seeing people who are so enthusiastic about seeing live music, even if the bands are underground and unknown, and seeing the musicians themselves play something which their (sometimes literal) blood, sweat and tears has gone into is truly something special. I’m incredibly proud of the underground music scene in the UK – whilst a lot of it sounds very similar to everything else, there are several bands which really stand apart from the rest, (Sathamel, Trivax, Abhorrent Decimation, Petrichor and Cryptic Shift, to name a few of a very long list) and it’s for those bands who have passion and fire throughout their music that I continue to book gigs. Every huge band was once a local band, and I think by turning our eyes away from the spotlight to focus upon the bands coming forth from the shadows of obscurity every once in while allows us to find those hidden jewels of the metal scene.
Talk to me about your thoughts on York’s metal scene?
It’s improving. When I first moved to York nearly three years ago there was a very limited scope of things that were available to people interested.
I have heard that the scene was better around here about five years ago, but I’ve also been told by numerous people that the Northern Extremity nights that I put on, and the new “Legion” metal DJ nights that I’m running alongside my associate Eric De Bernardi are beginning to take the York scene into a new “glory day” for metal in the city. That being said, I don’t actually know any companies or people who run live metal nights in York anymore. There is a lot of punk and hardcore, but I’m of the belief (please, if I am wrong somebody correct me – I want to meet more promoters!) that I am the only guy booking metal gigs at the moment. So in a way, I know that I put on good lineups and that everyone enjoys the gigs, but it sucks that there is nobody else doing this as well?
Without trying to sound too egotistical, the scene is a lot better since I started running Northern Extremity, but there is still so much more that we could do, and I hope that other people start to put on gigs themselves. The Fulford Arms (the venue where I host Northern Extremity) is one of the best venues for live music in the city – different genres and events every week and they make it work incredibly well. I couldn’t have started this up without their help and co-operation, so massive props to those guys!
What about Yorkshire’s scene in general?
Leeds and Sheffield both have amazing scenes. Obviously, Leeds University hosts Damnation Festival every year, which I will be attending in a few weeks. Apart from that, pretty much every gig I go to see is in Leeds. I could probably massively push up the attendance at Northern Extremity shows if I relocated to Leeds, but for the moment I’m very much focused on specifically the music scene in York.
What about your own musical projects – talk us through those?
Gods, where do I start. For the most part, I’ve put everything I’m involved with on a musical level on a temporary hiatus whilst I’m in my final year of University. This is because I’ve taken on so many other responsibilities I wouldn’t be able to dedicate the time or the necessary passion and emotion into making my own music, something which I think is important when one is being artistic. That being said, I’ve just finished recording guest vocals for a Slovakian band called Anthology for their latest album, ‘Angel’s Revenge’. One of their guitarists messaged me via my YouTube Channel and it took off from there really; they’re paying for me to fly out to Slovakia at some point next year in order to shoot a music video with them, something which is incredibly humbling for me. I’m also recording guest vocals for a black metal band from the Midlands called Angmaer.
Aside from guest vocals, I’m the frontman of a death metal band called Carnal Desolation (currently on hiatus), and a few friends and I are jamming some strange combination of black, death, doom and ambience under the name Wyrdstaef, which roughly translates to “Decree of Fate” in Old English. We have not released anything as of yet, but thematically Wyrdstaef is based upon the early Anglo-Saxon period of English history, something which I am dealing with in my degree. It has some promising material though, so perhaps that will go somewhere in the future.
What are your goals for the future of Northern Extremity?
Honestly, I don’t know. I’m organising an all-day festival for March, but I’m continuing to put gigs on every month. My aim for the short term is to continue to book bands which have promise and passion behind their music, and to give a platform to bands from across the country to play live to a good crowd. I run Northern Extremity entirely from my own pocket, and every penny that the nights makes goes towards paying the bands, the sound technician, photographers and putting on the next gig. At the minute the only thing that I can say with regards to my goals is to continue what I’m doing at the moment and see where it takes me. A faraway dream would be to build up my own festival, perhaps upon the scale of Damnation Festival in Leeds, dedicated to the underground scene of the United Kingdom and beyond. However far that may be in the future, I haven’t ruled it out if Northern Extremity continues to be successful.
Talk us through your top five favourite records, and why you love them so much?
There is no way I could answer this, because I listen to so much music and I love everything that I listen to in its own respect, however I will try to note down some of my most recently listened albums.
Wardruna – Yggdrasil
It was a close toss up between Gap Var Ginnunga and Yggdrasil, but in the end I had to choose the latter. Wardruna is pretty much the soundtrack to my life, this album will be played in my house at least once a day without me growing bored of it. As I’m studying a history degree (and like to specifically focus upon European pre-history), I find the simplicity and atmosphere of the music represents the image that I’ve built up within my mind of a stone or iron age tribal culture. There is something dark and ancient about its sound, something which (without sounding too cliché) teleports me to another world or time. When I close my eyes and listen to the rhythmic, tribalistic sounds, I imagine myself transported to a time before the beginning of recorded history. A great, dark forest stretches out before my eyes, and the gods and spirits reside in the trees, rocks and fens around me. This music wouldn’t feel out of place during some tribal ritual or sacrifice, or even within the hall of a brooding chieftan. Maybe it’s just my perception, but for me, Wardruna is something truly magical (for more amazing ambient music that I listen to alongside Wardruna, check out Paleowolf and Forndom.
Behemoth – The Satanist
I know this album has got an insane amount of hype over the past few years, but I genuinely believe that it is an absolutely spectacular release. Behemoth, and Nergal in particular are big inspirations of mine musically, and I remember being absolutely blown away when the album came out. It combines truly majestic, epic soundscapes with crushing riffs and powerful vocals and lyrics to make a sound that is truly magnificent.
Dimmu Borgir – In Sorte Diaboli
I will not profess to being the biggest Dimmu Borgir fan these days. However, I will acknowledge their significance as the band who first got me into black metal. When I was about thirteen I was on holiday with my family and remember buying a Metal Hammer magazine from a shop on the way to the beach. I sat pouring through it and noticed a little review for the release of the In Sorte Diaboli album on one of the pages. I remember thinking, I quite like the look of that description (having previously only been exposed to very mainstream metal such as Slipknot and Bullet for my Valentine) and immediately checked them out on Youtube when I got home. The rest is history. I bought the limited edition version of their album with some money I saved up, then gave my laptop several thousand viruses combing through Limewire trying to discover other bands. It was in this fashion that I got into Marduk, Carpathian Forest, Gorgoroth, Darkthrone, Mayhem Windir and Burzum in rapid succession. Whilst In Sorte Diaboli no longer ranks among my favourite albums, it was instrumental in bringing me into the world of extreme metal, and occasionally serves as a nice piece of nostalgia listening.
Woods of Ypres – Woods V: Grey Skies and Electric Lights
Not really in the same vein as the rest of the albums upon this list, but David Gold’s voice is phenomenal. It was a close one between all of the Woods albums, but this is definitely one of my all-time favourites when it comes to creating a strange, ambient mood. I work surprisingly well to this, and also thought I should mention Shining (SWE), and their albums Halmstad and Född Förlorare.
Anaal Nathrakh – Vanitas