John Iskander's Got Big Ideas For Parade of Flesh
Welcome to Local Music 'Mericans, where we get to know the people behind the scenes in Dallas/Fort Worth music.
John Iskander and friend
John Iskander was "at dinner with a priest" when he came up with the name Parade of Flesh, his one-man live music "boutique." But it would be rather antiseptic to label what he does as simply booking bands. I mean, the man has vision and aspirations: He'd love to book a black metal show at Medieval Times, and take over July Alley, for starters.
Iskander gets to know his bands' particular vibe enough that he's able to sort of custom-build a show. Sure, any good booker will have a sense of flow when it comes to pairing up bands, but Parade of Flesh seems to have a special flair for it, combining art and style to put some texture to his shows.
The bands he works with aren't always the most well-known, nor do they likely have tons of press resources available. Adding to the challenge is the fact that Iskander focuses on new bands nationally, not just locally. He has his work cut out for him when it comes to familiarizing not only himself, but his followers with new sounds. Luckily, he seems to have earned his customers' trust.
Iskander does his homework, pays attention to new music, seemingly via all those little indie labels out there, and treats his components like ingredients.
It would seem you do for live music what a good restaurant will do pairing wine and food. Accurate?
Excellent! That is a wonderfully accurate assessment. I have never thought of it that way before and I will probably use that in the future. Besides booking the right bands together, part of the pairing includes the appropriate room for the type of band coming through town. I recently noticed others are starting to adopt this model in their booking practices. What's the old cliché? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?
In the early days of Parade of Flesh, video was a main focus. How did it make you feel when YouTube came along?
Initially, I thought YouTube was great. Plus, they make it way easier and affordable to host endless amounts of videos. Nowadays, everyone has a camera. Everyone thinks they're a videographer or photographer. Present day, when you go to an arena concert, instead of seeing a sea of lighters, you see a cluster-fuck of smartphones and cameras. But is it still a fad? No way! Currently you have live streams of rock shows becoming commonplace.This past Friday, Sleigh Bells was live on YouTube through the "Bowery Presents" page. One week last year, American Express hosted live video streams of Spiritualized at Radio City Music Hall and Flaming Lips with Fang Island. Even Fun Fun Fun and Pitchfork made their festivals available in video streams.
Video is definitely something I want to focus on again, but my camera broke in August and I haven't had money/time to repair it. At this rate, I'm almost better off getting a new one, since the rapid rate of technology makes cameras obsolete/dated too quickly. Even having someone come and film one song from each band and post it on our YouTube page is good enough for me at this point.
Bro Fest, fun as it is, looks like it's not easy to push to people. Because Parade of Flesh uses bands that even our local music scene might not recognize, it seems like the success of the show lies largely in fans trusting you and taking the time to check them out online.True?
At this point I hope people respect and trust my taste and take the time to listen to the acts. Bro Fest is not meant as a replacement to SXSW, but a great affordable alternative if you just want to stay local and not deal with the horrendous exodus from Austin on Sunday. I had a goal this year to make it worth the ticket price if you just wanted to see five bands, so there's at least five garage acts, five indie acts, five psychedelic, five punk/hardcore.This year, a lot of bands' sounds cross over multiple genres/categories. As heinous as the name of the event sounds, Bro Fest 2012 is definitely not meant for those who are close-minded. I know people that won't even consider it because of the name. There is definitely a flow of acts within the soon-to-be-posted schedule.
Were you actually at a show when the idea for Parade of Flesh first started to formulate?
I was actually at dinner with a priest when the phrase "parade of flesh" came to fruition, but the actual focus on booking developed over time and is still being tweaked. Responding to this and being forced to think about the early days leaves me somewhat shocked that I stuck to doing this! I'm starting to think of it like a band. You start off thinking it's cool, you're having fun. But truthfully you're awful, then you grow and get better by tweaking things and paying attention to what your audience needs, learning from your mistakes, going into debt along the way and hoping that you recover!
It's surely an artistic endeavor, but it can't possibly be as easy to have booking influences. Or can it?
I think my biggest influences were 462 Concerts. They did Gypsy and Trees shows in the '90s. As a kid growing up here, the early days of [booking/promo agency] R5 when I lived in Philly, and then Daughter Entertainment when I moved back to Texas. I started doing shows at Pastime Tavern and gallery spaces, then moved on to Double Wide, City Tavern, Lounge on Elm, and then just kept being consistent. I don't know what show or thing brought me out of the underground but I would say it was sometime in 2009 or 2010? I'd honestly love to know. Maybe an old interview [Dallas Observer writer] Doug Davis did.
Where would you like to take PoF if resources or capital were not an issue ?
Besides making it "full time"? Here are my desires for Parade of Flesh if resources were not an issue. Let's see who steals these ideas first. FYI, there's no comedy to any of this.
1) I want to book an INSANE black metal show at Medieval Times or the Renaissance Fair. Even have jousting tournaments go on between or during bands. EPIC!!
2) I want to shut down July Alley and turn it into a better venue. It's so scummy that there is no reason it should still be in business. I have no beef and I don't know the history of the place, but they should raise a white flag and hand it over to Elm St. Tattoo or me.
3) There's no secret to this one either: I'd love to own and run Sons of Hermann Hall, provide it necessary repairs and turn it into a world-class venue/historic landmark.The place is so awesome and gives me a special vibe when I walk in there every time. I actually don't like to go upstairs by myself into the main hall when the lights are out. Haunted.
4) Lower ticket prices to maximize attendance at shows. Shows are always more memorable when it is packed and you're with your friends. If I had loads of cash, then it'd be easier to just pay bands their guarantees and not give a fuck about what the door brought in on a lower ticket.
5) Bigger shows, more sponsored parties and one-off performances.
6) Cool merchandise and more themed events/parties.
7) Video webcasts of all the concerts I book.
Considering you hear new music from all over creation, who do you think are the heaviest hitters in DFW music right now?
There are some great local bands who are already successful in my eyes, but I define success by quality of work and audience reach or notoriety, such as Warbeast, Kill the Client, True Widow, Menkena, Mind Spiders, Power Trip and even Ishi. So I guess it depends how large you're talking. Neon Indian was local. I think Wild//Tribe just nailed it by signing to Southern Lord, and with the support of Flaming Lips and the Polyphonic Spree, New Fumes is sure to blow up anytime. I have hopes for Nervous Curtains because their songs are passionate and they put on a good show. Leg Sweeper slays and everyone knows that after they see them. I'm still mad at Sex Tape for moving to NY, but shit, it's completely understandable.
Any final thoughts on how the DFW music community could run more harmoniously?
Promote hard. Play out less. Don't saturate yourself all over the place. Hold hands, buy each other beers and go to each others' shows.