Almost two decades into their career, British heavy metal band Asomvel was beginning to thrive. Years of hard work had begun to pay off for founding members Jay Winter and Lenny Robinson; with a dependable drummer finally in place, Asomvel managed to put out a couple of very well-received releases and play some higher-profile international gigs than ever before. That came to a halt last October, when Winter was killed in an auto accident, the victim of a careless driver.
Now, almost a year after his untimely death, Winter’s family, friends and bandmates have gotten together to put on a festival in his honor: Full Moon Dog, on October 1st, in Bradford, England.
Taking its name from Asomvel’s first EP, the festival aims to pay tribute to Winter by honoring him, his band and what he loved. Fine Print recently chatted a bit about Full Moon Dog and the future of Asomvel with the people behind the festival: Lenny Robinson, Deb Robinson (Jay’s sister and Lenny’s wife), and Rich Walker…
Visit fullmoondog.com for more info on the festival.
Q.) How did the idea for the festival come about, and what was the main inspiration behind it?
Deb: That’s a no-brainer – the same thing that inspired me my whole life: my brother, my hero, my friend, Jay-Jay Winter. We did a memorial gig last year. After Jay’s death his heavy metal brothers and sisters wanted a way to show their love of Jay, and their support to his family. So we got together for a kick-ass gig, and this year I just knew it had to be bigger and better.
Q.) Rich, how did you first get involved with the festival?
Rich: I was approached by Deb to help out, Deb’s superb at the organizational side and running all the important stuff, whereas I suggested bands and made some contact with them. That’s kind of my side of things. We try and choose a mix of local and international, and importantly stuff that Jay might appreciate or people he would have respect for.
Q.) What’s the goal with the festival?
Rich: To put on a better event every year, and to raise a toast to the memory of one of the most forthright and honest blokes I’ve ever met in the Heavy Metal scene. He was one of a small handful of people I’ve met over the years who I really, truly respected – not just because he took the piss out of all the bullshitters and put them in their place, but because he also had a heart of gold and was a generous man always willing to help.
Deb: I know that those people who knew Jay, even those who only met him once, will remember him forever. That’s the kind of person Jay was, he made an immediate impact, he had charisma, intelligence, wit, charm, and he was honest – a man full of honour and integrity — you felt lucky to know him. But the thought of all those people who will never know him, never get that opportunity to see first-hand just how amazing and inspiring he was, that thought is too much to bear. If people come to the Full Moon Dog Festival and leave with a real sense of who Jay was, and an appreciation of his music I will consider it a success.
Q.) What impact would you like the festival to have?
Rich: A heavy one, on the skulls of all the idiots who buy into trends and fashions dictated by magazines and marketing strategies. Knock some damn sense into them.
Deb: I’d like it to kick ass and leave a footprint, just like Jay-Jay did.
Q.) What do you feel sets Full Moon Dog apart from other heavy metal (or non-metal) festivals?
Deb: It will be Jay-style: uncompromising – showing the bands we love, the bands Jay loved, and giving a fair crack of the whip to up-and-coming bands without making them jump through hoops, pay to play, or any of that other nonsense promoters do under the guise of supporting new bands. Full Moon Dog is a festival by the fans, for the fans. This festival is not now, nor will it ever be, about making vast amounts of money – the aim is to grow it each year, any money made will be ploughed back in for the next year. This year for example, seven bands, two of them from Europe, at a price of £6, it’d be rude not to come, wouldn’t it? ;)
Rich: I think in future years that will become apparent in how we act, how we treat bands and fans, and how people perceive what we are doing. Deb has a lot of ideas that will eventually be put into motion.
Q.) What would you like to see happen with the festival in future years?
Lenny: We want to stick at it and make it an exciting, inspiring event for your diary. The fans are the most important part of this and we need to make sure they are well catered for, down to the smallest detail. It’s early days, but we will get there.
Deb: I want to see it grow – nothing less than the best is good enough for Jay! Eventually this will be an open-air weekend festival which will rival any in Europe.
Rich: Purely for the event to grow, and to make people more aware that they don’t have to eat the shit handed to them by glossy magazines or money obsessed labels.
Q.) There are direct connections between many of the bands on the bill. Lenny plays in both Asomvel and Solstice, Rich from Solstice signed Asomvel to his label and released their music, Felipe from Procession filled in on vocals for Solstice, Lee from The Dead Resurrected is a former member of Solstice … were those connections a motivator in putting the line-up together, or was the priority more to get killer bands that were available?
Deb: Well, Asomvel had to play; Jay’s music needs to be heard. Rich Walker from Solstice has always supported Jay and naturally when he offered to play, I was delighted. My son, Steve (a.k.a. Stel) from Stiletto Farm grew up with the coolest uncle on the planet, and naturally he wanted to be a part of this, and Stiletto Farm always put on a good show.
All the other bands are playing because I think they make for a damn good line-up and they all want to be there to support Jay-Jay and keep his memory alive … and I am very grateful to them. Especially Hooded Priest who are paying their own way over from The Netherlands to honour Jay – that pretty much sums up the spirit of the festival doesn’t it? Heavy metal fans really are the best in the world.
(Ed. note – Unfortunately, Stiletto Farm have since had to drop off of the bill.)
Rich: We were looking at bands who were friends, and fans of Asomvel. There’s a lot of connection between some of the local bands, and a lot of history. Not all of it good, ha ha. But you know, if there’s been one Yorkshire underground metal band that all of us like it has to be Asomvel, both musically and as people. Jay and Lenny were legendary to me before I had even met them.
Q: Lenny, you put Asomvel on hold recently, before deciding to continue with Rob “Conan” Threapleton, formerly of Deathwing. At the time, was it planned to be an indefinite hiatus?
Lenny: I reached the point where I realized Asomvel was not the band Jay-Jay would want going out there. Just because he is no longer here, doesn’t mean I don’t take into account his point of view. We were best mates for nearly 30 years, I am fully aware of his likes and dislikes. Swifto did a great job, he didn’t do anything wrong, but it was not right. The decision to put a stop to Asomvel was mine alone. We’ve always been a democratic band, but only to a point. Somebody has to make tough decisions for the sake of the band. Ian and Swifto were not happy, but I’ll guarantee they weren’t as pissed off as me. This has been my band for longer than I can remember. If I don’t believe it’s as good as when Jay was in the band, then I can’t do it with any conviction. Asomvel was put on hold ’til a guy like Jay came along. Someone with his attitude. I knew it wouldn’t happen, ‘cos Jay was a one-off, so the band was over for me. It was suggested Conan be persuaded to do a few tracks with Asomvel at the festival. He agreed, we rehearsed, he had that certain something we had been lacking. I call it rough edges. Whatever it is, it works and this band feels like Asomvel once again.
Q: Are there any songs you’d written with Jay that you guys hadn’t gotten around to recording yet? If so, will they be played live or recorded?
Lenny: We’ve got so many songs that Jay and I wrote that we wouldn’t have to write another thing. Jay’s lyrics were always remarkable, honest and to the point. We do want those songs to see the light of day, and we will re-work them and introduce them slowly, but surely. The main objective is to prove ourselves worthy of the name Asomvel by writing new catchy songs in the same vein.
Q.) Was it planned all along to have Full Moon Dog be the first English show with the new Asomvel and Solstice lineups? (Both bands have new frontmen – Conan for Asomvel and Paul Kearns for Solstice.)
Rich: Not at all, it just happened that way. It’s quite nice though, even nicer that we get to play first and open the billing instead of waiting around all day. There are no egotists here, we are happy to open for some less known local bands who are friends.
Lenny: I am aware that this is the first gig with the new Asomvel line-up & we have to deliver. We have to destroy people, or what is the point? So far, we are very pleased with the way rehearsals are going. Solstice is not a problem; we know our stuff. Paul, the new singer, is gonna work out fine and make his mark.
Q: What would you like for people to take away from the festival?
Lenny: We’re doing it for Jay. If anyone leaves with a better understanding of how he conducted himself, I will be very happy. Jay changed my life. I was never the same person after I met him. I know this to be true of others who were fortunate enough to spend any time in his company. I’ve never met anyone in all these years that could even come close to his intelligence, razor-sharp wit, charisma and awesome power.
On the bill for Full Moon Dog …
3.00pm – 3.50 – SOLSTICE (Bradford, England)
The standard-bearers of epic doom metal for over two decades. What more needs to be said?
“Hammer of Damnation,” from 1998’s New Dark Age:
“Cimmerian Codex,” from a live performance earlier this year:
4.00pm – 4.45 – THE DEAD RESURRECTED (Bradford, England)
Lazarus Blackstar side project that ditches sludge for more of a classic doom metal sound.
“Children of the Dead Church” and “Crushed by Life,” from a recent live performance:
5.00pm – 5.45: LET ‘EM BURN (Bradford, England)
Let ‘Em Burn bucked the recent retro-thrash trend in two significant ways: they broke up before a bunch of similarly-influenced bands formed and got signed, and unlike those bands Let ‘Em Burn were actually good.
“Toxic Shaft,” from a 2007 live performance:
6.00pm – 6.50: WHEN IDOLS FALL (Leeds, England)
No bullshit mid-tempo heavy metal.
“Glory Through Pain,” from a recent demo recording:
“The Bold Knight,” from a recent live performance:
8.00pm – 8.50: HOODED PRIEST (Asten, North-Brabant, The Netherlands)
Occult doom backed with upright bass that thankfully avoids the silly, forced retro trappings of most current occult-themed doom bands.
“Eight O’Clock Witch,” from 2010’s Devil Worship Reckoning
“Well Worth the Dig,” from a 2010 live performance
9.10pm – 10.10: PROCESSION (Santiago, Chile)
Crushing doom metal with more than a few epic touches. Their full-length debut was one of 2010’s absolute highlights.
“White Coffin,” from 2010’s Destroyers of the Faith:
“Chants of the Nameless,” from a recent live performance:
10.25pm – 11.00: ASOMVEL (Bradford, England)
Rollicking heavy metal that captures the rock & roll spirit of early Motörhead without ever coming across as a clone.
“Full Moon Dog,” from 2009’s Full Moon Dog EP:
“No Twist of Fate,” from a 2010 live performance: