Booking Agency: Shōgun Concerts
Location: Dortmund, Germany
Genres: Metal – Hardcore – Punk – (Pop Punk – Hip Hop)
Primary Venues: Junkyard (Dortmund) – Kulttempel (Oberhausen)
Opportunity for Help: Corona Help for Shōgun Concerts
During the recent years, our Team TMB in NRW went to a lot of concerts and there was one booking agency that came up slightly more frequently than the rest. I cannot even name how many incredible line-ups were brought to us by Shōgun Concerts. We already planned to meet with our team member Steven who lives in South Germany to visit the originally organized Tombstoned Fest by Shogun Concerts that was supposed to take place in March this year. As we all know, the global pandemic forced a cancellation of pretty much any concert in Germany (and it also made us cancel Steven’s stay here) – which nevertheless leads us to the topics of this interview. First of all I asked Joe from Shōgun Concerts about an interview to be able to get to know his booking agency and himself in more detail – and additionally I wanted to ask about his experiences of the current situation in the light of the still ongoing restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Interview with Joe from Shōgun Concerts
On your Facebook page you state that you are „back“ with concerts in the Ruhr area. I myself as someone who moved into the Ruhr area later on and didn’t grow up here first had you on my scope when you seemingly restarted organizing concerts. What is the background story of Shōgun Booking when you originally started? When exactly did you get back in business and what were your first concerts, then?
Honestly this was made up by me to create some kind of storyline to it and let it sound that the Shōgun himself has risen again haha. I started with doing shows in the Ruhr area back in 2009 and did shows in Bochum, Essen and one time in Mülheim a.d. Ruhr. These shows were presented under the name of „Stateless Society“ which I brought with me along when I moved to Berlin end of 2010. I moved back to the Ruhr area end of 2017 and it was time for a new name and a new project to work with. Under Stateless Society I still book tours for German and international bands that need shows/tours in Germany and whole Europe.
The first Shogun Konzerte show happened at Kulttempel Oberhausen in 2018 with All Pigs Must Die, the other band of the Hope Conspiracy‘s singer. Then Skeletonwitch at the same venue and Primitive Man and 16 played some weeks later at Junkyard Dortmund. Sadly it was a short concert for PM as their singer Ethan’s pedalboard had some damages or electricity problems.
Fun Fact that we now found out is that I actually visited the first concert you organized together with Positive Records (APMD) – which was pretty awesome.
So seemingly getting into the booking business when having come from Berlin was nothing new to you with the shows you already booked before. When you came back – did you already have a clear idea that you want to start booking in the Ruhr area as well right from the beginning? Did you also already have a clear idea what genres you want to adress primarily or did this all come up when already having arrived here?
When I moved back from Berlin to the Ruhr area it was hard for me to find venues for the shows I had in mind. In Berlin over those years I had strong connections, but new ones had to be made here again. Knowing Positives Records (Backs) since years already helped and so it was obvious to ask him to co-operate on some shows. I also did two shows at “Die Rotunde” in Bochum, but then really started doing shows at Junkyard Dortmund and then in 2019 at Die Trompete Bochum. And yeah as I still love promoting shows I always was on the look for cool venues to work with from the beginning.
I knew already which genres I wanted to focus on and as in Berlin I wanted to stay open minded and promote shows for stuff / bands that I like. So mainly Metal, but also Hardcore, Punk(rock) and also some other stuff like Pop Punk and Hip Hop. The connections to several booking agencies and also bands helped a lot to start with 100% right back from the start.
I really like the fact that you do not solely focus on one genre but also promote adjacent genres and beyond. Taking a look back at all the concerts you organized in the Ruhr area after having come back from Berlin, what was the concert you personally were thrilled the most about and why?
I would say there were already so many concerts that were special to me and I try to keep the list short here, nothing against any bands, but for me all shows I set up for Amenra have a very special place. Besides these shows it may sound weird, but the Big Mike Colonia show at the beginning of this year at Die Trompete Bochum was really one for the books. The energy and party level here was really high and everyone had a great time. Last but not least the shows from Emma Ruth Rundle, Raketkanon (sadly poorly visited) and the Thou show stood out for me so far.
I can fully understand that setting up shows for Amenra is something very special. Several members of our team went to see them last year in Oberhausen (Report) – to me it was the first time – and it was absolutely breathtaking. Having talked about Shōgun Concerts now I eventually wanted to ask – are there any projects apart from your booking agency we should know you from as well? What do you do apart from booking concerts?
Acually that Amenra in Oberhausen was also by Shōgun Konzerte, but in cooperation with Positive Records again.
Like I wrote I still do Stateless Society and book tours for bands like Ultha, Phantom Winter, Portrayal of Guilt and a lot more. Besides that I work for the merch company Evil Greed as a freelance and help bands with all their merch printings and organizations for their tours. As all band related jobs are now on hold I luckily work in retail as well and still have that job. Before Covid-19 happened my plan was to quit that job, but then everything went in another direction as we know now.
I am very sorry about that and we all took a closer look at Shōgun during that time being afraid of the negative impacts this all caused. Throughout the entire music industry, the Covid-19 epidemic left a gaping wound behind and as we were able to follow it did a lot of harm to your booking agency as well – which is why I also wanted to also take a closer look at that aspect as well.
When the media began reporting about the first official cases of Corona in Germany that were primarily located in South Germany – what were your first thoughts? Did you expect this now to run across the country or did you hope for this to be over as quickly as possible?
At first we all joked about it, but when we had our last show before the total lockdown at Junkyard Dortmund it really became a reality. Even in the city of Dortmund some people were infected and it spread across NRW quickly. Me and the team from Junykard Dortmund only did this concert as there was no legal right to cancel any shows. This happened a few days later when finally the governement of NRW also declared the total lockdown. At that show we had hand-sanitizers and also people had to fill into a list to show if there was an infection breaking out at the show and how to contact these people. It wasn’t well-visited as many people that already bought tickets for that show stayed home instead as they were not feeling safe. I was really happy that nothing happened at that show, like no one that I know of got infected or something else bad.
We all know that problem of initially having joked about the entire thing – we also did that among the Team TMB when not having been able to guess the impact of all of this at that point. What I find quite striking is hearing the other side of the story of you even wanting to cancel a show but not legally having been able to do so, when to us it seemed that concerts still taking place conveyed a feeling of possible safety. How did you experience the eventual announcement of the lockdown? Did you feel relieved when now no longer being in charge of deciding whether a concert was going to take place or did you feel overwhelmed? What were the first actions you took after the announcement?
As we knew the impact that these first out of many infections in Germany and escpecially NRW would have on shows and our safety we really hoped for a quick lockdown. Not only the bands’ and audience’s safety, but also our own was at risk and it was a relief to finally have that lockdown statement. Also financially it was out of our hands and so we could cancel shows or find new dates for these.
After the last show I did on Thursday 12th of March I think the next day pretty early Chelsea Wolfe cancelled her tour and before hell broke loose she flew home. So that happened one day before a sold-out Chelsea Wolfe concert in the Christuskirche Bochum. This was kind of annoying, but also better for everyone to stop spreading the virus and not harming more people. So I cancelled my first show, because of Corona virus and it wasn’t the last to follow after that. I guess the next week on Tuesday events under 1000 people were banned as well and so a wave of cancelled or postponed shows followed.
I don’t even want to ask what it was like to cancel or try to postpone these shows – we were all able to follow the ever-growing list of cancelled shows on your social media.
What I want to ask, though, is concerned with the initial contact with how to behave after the lockdown was announced. What was the exchange with those state authorities in charge with booking agencies and concert locations like? Was it clear what the following situation was going to be like and how long it was gonna take – and what to do?
There was no contact between me and state or city authorities. I mostly got my info from the media outlets and pages from the state of NRW or city of Dortmund/Bochum I checked daily and in the beginning it was clear that there will be a lockdown, but no one knew how long it will take. All shows for March and April were cancelled pretty fast and then after a week or two also May and June shows. This happened also as all borders were closed pretty fast and no flights left airports. After the state authorities made it clear that there won’t be any bigger festivals happening till 31st of August everything till September was cancelled or tried to postponed to a later date in 2020 or to 2021 directly.
This was an unusual situation for everyone at that point so I kinda understand that institutions in charge had trouble transparently communicating their decisions. It seems, however, that among the many fuzzy decisions, the ones that were mandatory for you were communicated properly. However, postponing and cancelling so many shows must have cost a fortune – since some were probably finished organizing already and others caused costs regarding the bands travelling there and back and even more. During the lockdown, it was announced that self-employed people received a financial injection and I can also remember that you started an aid program where people were able to donate or also tell you that they do not want refunds when having bought tickets for your cancelled shows. Taking a look around at that time and when also some businesses were sooner or later allowed to reopen again later on, did you as a concert booker feel well-treated?
As it is still unclear when concerts will happen again in the near future we all have to stay put and wait for new announcements, new updates to Covid-19 or even wait till the vaccine is there. I guess with 1,5 mtrs distance it’s very hard to do concerts that are financially doable. As you wrote I applied for the financial injection and also asked for donations, but from goverment side it’s still pretty weird that there is no clear signal than just the forbiddance of bigger events till 31st August and shutting down all venues. Sure it’s pretty uncertain how the pandemic behaves during the summer now that travel bans will be lifted. It looks a little as if the entertainment industry and concerts are not so relevant compared to other stuff. Which I totally get, but it’s a huge industry and who knows how many companies and venues have to close if this will last longer than we all think.
I really don’t hope that your last statement will cause trouble on higher scales – we also often wondered about governmental decisions – especially in our federal state (NRW). Taking a look back at the entire situation in the past and at right now eventually – what are your hopes and expectations towards the future?
I hope that they find a vaccine sooner than later so everyone can go back to normal and live without the 1,5mtrs distance and wearing a mask. Right now it looks like not only the summer is totally cancelled when it comes to concerts, but maybe fall and winter as well. Things are still uncertain, but from what I heard venues might be closed longer than 31st August.
In order to eventually drift off again from this pretty dark topic for the entire artistic freelancer world I’d at least like to come back to what we at Transcended Music Blog always are interested in – the music you listen to. When regarding the past and especially the entire pandemic situation, what were the three records that accompanied you during such times and are there any reasons for your choices?
I have to be honest here as I haven’t listened much to music the last months and mostly listened to podcasts like the one from Olli Schulz & Jan Böhmermann „fest & flauschig“. As they aired more than the usual show a week it got me through those months and I really like listening to both of them. Slowly getting back to checking out new albums and just listened to one of the new Old Man Gloom records and also the new Blind To Faith from Belgium. Both pretty great and heavy records. I really look forward to listen to the new Oranssi Pazuzu and Today Is the Day records. Maybe there will also be shows for one of those bands in the ruhr area in the future.
If you want to adress any concluding words, you can now do so.
Let’s all hope this pandemic is over soon and we can get back to promoting shows live and not online anymore. Bigger events in Germany are now banned till the end of October as it seems and we will see when we can open clubs for indoor shows again. If you want to raise awareness for concerts/clubs in Dortmund you can check out http://www.ohneeuchwirdesstill.de. It’s a joint venture of many venues, DJs etc. in Dortmund to let officials know how everyone involved is struggling right now and what our needs are. Shōgun Konzerte joined this one as well.
If you want to support Shōgun Concerts during the current situation, you can also do so on the BigCartel page by donating in order for help.
Thanks a lot for sacrificing so much time for this interview – I really appreciate it and it was very interesting to take a look at the other side of concerts during these days. I hope to be able to come back to one of your concerts soon enough – stay healthy!