‘The goth community has always been very welcoming’

A see of black is expected to descend all over the island in time for Dark Malta Festival, a niche event focusing on industrial and goth music.

It might not be everyone’s cup of dark black coffee, but there’s no denying that the music and look hold an appeal that goes beyond the teenage years – Malta’s goth and industrial scene may be small, but it is thriving as can be seen by this week’s eagerly-awaited return of Dark Malta Festival.

The three-day event will be hosting over 25 international acts from within the industrial, goth and metal community and is expected to attract attendees from across Europe, in particular from Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.

The man who made it happen is Rene Farrugia, a veteran name on the local events landscape and also the brains behind The Garage, Malta’s only dedicated rock and metal venue. This year he’s managed to put together a lineup that sees some of the biggest acts in the scene converging in Ta’ Qali – starting with the stars, And One, that many of Malta’s 30 and 40-something-year olds will remember dominating the smoky floor at Coconut’s Remedy before its demise a few years ago. The band was initially heavily influenced by new wave/synthpop band Depeche Mode, choosing to play with two keyboards and a beatbox.

The rest of the line up is just as juicy – German industrial band Project Pitchfork, Swedish industrial metal Deathstars, Norwegian electronic wonder Icon of Coil… all names that carry a certain weight on the scene. I caught up with Rene to find out what festival attendees can expect.

Can you share with us how the festival has evolved over the past years?

We started the project as a one Day Festival with an international known headliner in 2018. We were surprised at the number of foreigners that visited the Festival and so a year later we went for a two-day event with nearly a full international lineup. This year it will be our fourth edition with three days, 25 bands, pool parties, an art exhibition and more.

There is often a negative perception surrounding Goth, Metal and Industrial music, with some people associating it with a ‘questionable’ kind of darkness. How do you react to these stereotypes?

To be honest, I don’t make much of the opinions of such people. When you consider that we are in the year 2023 and actual information is available from more sources then one, people can obtain knowledge about anything and empower themselves to evolve.

How do you select the lineup of artists for the festival, considering the unique styles and diversity within the Goth, Metal and Industrial music scenes?

Well, the headliners sometimes are already booked two years in advance. What we usually do is, a week after Dark Malta is over we start contacting the various artists and book according to availability. We confirm the entire line up within a month then we work with the designer of the festival to launch the marketing campaign. The bands are chosen either because we would had heard them when travelling to foreign festivals or because festival attendees would have requested them. If we’re not familiar with them we check out their music to make sure it fits within our brand, and we book them.

The style of music has been known to generate some controversy. How do you address these issues?

This is true of many forms of art, especially underground genres. I myself don’t really pay much attention to this sort of thing unless it gives rise to discrimination.

With the growth of streaming platforms and the increasing accessibility of music, do you feel that the festival has played a role in exposing a wider audience to Goth and Industrial music, and if so, how?

For sure, here in Malta, where the goth/industrial crowd is very small, it helped to cement the scene. The festival includes an element of metal, and thus it attracts a good section of that scene, too. Of course you’ll find the purists who will argue that since it’s not their style they won’t attend, or even bring forth a million reasons why this can’t really be considered ‘metal’. But these past two editions we saw a strong attendance from the local metal community.

Over the years, has the festival become a platform for emerging artists within the Goth and Industrial genres to showcase their talent and expand their fan base?

Yes, we do also try to book the lesser known bands for this factor. While we book some the most known bands around the globe, we always like to balance the lineup with bands which are less known, to give them the opportunity to share their talent on stage.

How do you ensure that the festival remains a safe and inclusive space for attendees?

The goth scene has always been a very welcoming scene. We don’t tolerate any kind of bullying or discrimination during our events. If you’re coming to the festival with any strange Ideas, please stay home.

The visual aesthetics and fashion associated with the culture are striking and unique. How do these aspects contribute to the overall experience of the festival for both performers and attendees?

We are very happy to say that the attendees really get into this aspect, with most showing off their best outfits and boots for the festival. On our end we make sure to provide the best atmosphere with a tailor-made sound system and light shows during the concerts.

Are there any collaborations or special performances planned for this edition that you’d like to highlight or tease for our readers?

This year we’re collaborating once again with the Legendary Reptile Nights (London) and also from the first time with Whip Me from South America for the after hours. We are very happy to announce that the Batcave DJs from Belgium will be rocking the Pool Party on Sunday. Not to mention all the foreign artists and DJ’s that will be playing across three days.

Looking ahead, what are your hopes and visions for the future of the festival?

Our aim was always to reach the fifth anniversary – if all goes well, this will be next year. The festival is facing new challenges, the biggest one being the absurd prices of flight tickets. For sure that will be the biggest challenge for next year, but we still see Dark Malta Festival happening in the future.

Dark Malta Festival takes place between April 21 and 23 at Gianpula Main Room.

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