We’re Loud: A fast, non-stop, loud, and at times very debauchourus festival!

- by Bikem Ekberzade

Peter Menchetti is an otherwise ordinary looking guy. He is not too tall, nor too loud, there is nothing significant about him other than his quiet yet charming nature. He is that guy everybody knows and likes, that guy who you sat next to on the train ride back home and whom you sort of paid attention to but not really, or whom you knew when you were growing up, your childhood friend, or maybe the kid that lived next door in your neighbourhood with whom your parents were not alarmed if you played together outside. Menchetti looks and acts like a normal person. However when he pulls out his over-sized, flat, rectangular custom-made suitcase, flips its locks open to reveal the two turntables inside, pulls out his box of records and starts spinning, he is the master of the dance floor, the punk god who makes sure you drop all your mischief and start your pogo.

The bands whom he takes on board his label Slovenly Records are not any different. A world class collection of misfits, they are bound to tear up the stage and the audience in tandem regardless whether they play in a dive in Puerto Rico, Vietnam, Greece or Turkey. Menchetti’s acts of disruption are not limited to his DJing or his label either. Menchetti wears another hat, a crazier one where terms like wealth, a comfortable retirement plan and a studio apartment on credit have no meaning: he organizes a one of a kind punk festival. We’re Loud is an international underground festival which Menchetti has masterminded and been organizing for the past few years. We met prior to its last stop in my fantastically dystopic hometown Istanbul, and conducted this interview immediately after the three day non-stop marathon of punk rock ended.

There is in fact a lively underground scene in Istanbul that many foreigners, blinded by the tourist attractions the city has to offer, often overlook. Menchetti is thankfully not one of them. A connoisseur of underground life in unexpected places, he not only knows the city well enough but is not scared to invest in this diversity: The Raws, a Turkish punk extravaganza is one of Menchetti’s new releases on his sub-Slovenly label, the Mondo Mongo Records.

We’re Loud, on the other hand, while kicking off with a release party for the new 7” The Raws album, is an altogether different affair. For three days live bands from all around the world invaded the dives on both continents along the Bosphorus, with Djs capable of spinning on the go and at a moments notice, not much hustle and bustle, no egos cast, bands ready to perform on a boat, and audience ready to form some of the liveliest moshpits by the time the first beat of the drumsticks hit the air.

For three days, the festival took over not only rock clubs, bars, a concert hall, a boat and several restaurants and hotels, but those that survived the weekend ended the debauchery on the hot-stones of the Turkish baths scattered around this ancient megapolis. It is after a few hours of relaxation I was able to catch Menchetti and run by him my questions. Soon as our interview ended him and his crew were once again lost in the streets of Istanbul, this time in search of a record store and a scheduled meet with one of the oldest record archivers of original Turkish Anatolian and Psychedelic Rock.

Ok, so first the good news you broke recently: We’re Loud in Istanbul is happening again in 2019.

I think so yeah, I would like to repeat it. It seems like it would be a pity not to repeat it.

What makes you think that? In other words how do you, as the mastermind and the organizer behind it, think the first ever international punk music festival in Istanbul went?

It went really well, it was super fun. I mean it didn’t go perfectly, and that’s another reason why I want to repeat it because you know you learn from your experiences and next time I think we can do it even better.

What were some of the problems?

Well for example on the boat. Were you on the boat?

Yeah, well I think the boat (across the Bosphorus with live punk music indoors, a lively moshpit, and a fantastic open area up top to enjoy the continuous fish grill and cold booze) was the best part!

I mean it could have been better if we were all upstairs, outside? If everybody was up there, the bar, the DJs, everybody’s hanging out up there it would have been a really nice party! We had to put the bands inside, downstairs because of the noise, but there’s no good reason we weren’t upstairs.. Just a lot of people made me paranoid about the weather. They said, “Istanbul, middle of October, the weather can change really quickly,” But we could’ve just moved down, that’s what everybody says.

That’s something so minor though, a good thing there were no major problems..

No, not really. It went quiet smoothly, well, I mean, yeah, kind of hellish for us the organizers (he laughs) and you know another thing I could have done better was probably find and apartment with an elevator instead of top floor and we had to carry heavy suitcases up and down the stairs everyday..

This is such a massive organization, there is so much logistics behind it. You have to arrange all the bands, make sure they fly into Istanbul and find their way around, plus you have a large crowd of people, audience, who is also flying into Istanbul to see all these bands, you have to make sure they are also somewhat taken care of as well. Most of these people have been to Turkey for the first time. How do you arrange all this? And this happens in every country you go to with We’re Loud..

Ah yes. First of all I do have some people I work with, with Slovenly (Records) and with Sticker Guy and actually I have an assistant who is in Florida and I can send her a message and [say] “hey, check these guys in, they are going to the airport now,” and I’ll be out on the street and she does that kind of thing, she helps me book the flights, and arrange the travel and things like that. But more important for Istanbul is I got together with people from the local scene and this is what I do every time I set up in a new place I go,  I get to know pretty intimately the local scene, there are good and the bad things about it, you know some of the dramas and everything as well, you know but that’s all part of it.

How long have you been doing We’re Loud Fest?

The first one was in 2015. And that was in Athens, Greece, and then we did another one in 2016, and that’s the one that was supposed to start in Istanbul and then go to Ayvalik (Turkey), and to Lesbos (Greece), and then Athens but the military coup attempt happened so we moved the Istanbul-Ayvalik part just to Thessaloniki which was awesome. But it was a lot of work.

How many versions in total have there been before Istanbul?

So we did Athens, and Thessaloniki, ten days in Greece, then I did Puerto Rico, Mexico, in the Spring of 2017, and Naples, so this is the sixth We’re Loud. In fact, I’m sorry, I should say this is the seventh if you want to count, because I also organized in April in Reno a festival, it was not called We’re Loud Fest, but it was presented by We’re Loud Fest, it was called Debauch-a-Reno.  

You also have this Debauch-a series as well right? That was not the only one, there are others?

There is another one coming up in Puerto Rico in February.

Are they similar to We’re Loud? Or are they louder, or more in your face, more “debaucharous”?

(laughing) I would say it is pretty much the same idea.

Actually this one could have been Debauch-istan, just as what you were suggesting before?

I almost called it Debauch-istan but some people advised against that (laughs)

Let’s talk about the first night a little bit, it felt like a house party (it was being held in an underground DIY studio in Karakoy, famous for the pier, the brothels, and the odd designer restaurant) kind of like going back to the college days where you have house parties, you charge at the door, and there is always the looming threat that there may be a police bust. Does this “feel” kind of resonate back to your Reno days, back to the 90s or late 80s? Back when you were “Sticker Guy”?

Still Sticker Guy! Well, I started doing basement shows actually in the mid-90s. So yeah in a way it does resonate back to that. I was here in May, Enrico and I went to EksiBir and I thought it was a really cool space and I met the people who run the place and I really liked them also. So I just thought it would be cool to have an underground welcome party. And we’ve done that before. In Thessaloniki we did a late night after party in an anarchist squat kind of place which was super cool, super fun. And yes, I don’t want everything, every part of We’re Loud Fest to be in a rock club or something, you know I’d always like to see different parts of the city as well. Different elements of the scene I guess you could say.

So, who is the Sticker Guy?

(he swipes up his T-shirt to show the tattoo on his upper arm) it’s me (he laughs) we started making stickers in ‘93. And everything came from that. I was nineteen years old when we started and then I found myself with a thousand dollars in the bank for the first time when it started to take off. So then I started the record label. The first label was called 702 Records.

How many bands came out from that label?

I’m not sure, we had about 30 releases.

Local mostly?

No. There were a few local bands. But most of the bands were from around the States.

And were you traveling a lot at the time? Going to different states to see the shows?

Not that much yet, actually. I started traveling a lot in the mid-90s after the label had started.

And how did Slovenly Records come about?

Slovenly started in 2002, when I decided I wanted to make a record label that had more of a focus, because the first label 702 Records I was just putting records out by my friends’ bands basically. Any band that I liked and that were my friends. But stylistically there was no focus really. With Slovenly I wanted to be more focused. So that people could just may be buy the record because they see Slovenly.

And you obviously had a choice in gendre? It was punk.

Yeah. Punk, garage punk, rock’n roll, trashy blues punk. I mean we started with The Low Light from the Netherlands and they are pretty much blues punk. Lo-fi blues punk.

And what about Turkish bands?

We just put out The Raws record. We just had a record release (laughs) The Raws record is on Mondo Mongo which is an imprint of Slovenly, which is dedicated to bands that sing in their own language that’s not English.

And how many bands are there such?

I don’t know we have something like 15 releases now.

When did you start doing that?

2 or 3 years ago?

So around the time you started doing We’re Loud as well.

Yeah. That sounds about right.

So that is sort of like you are coming out of Reno, going national first and now you are taking on the world. Slovenly has offices in different countries. Where are you present other than United States?

In Berlin, actually the Berlin office really looks like and office now. It started off as just like the back room of a record store. The Tokyo, Japan office is my friend Rin’s bedroom. Dallastown Pennsylvania, the main office is really in Dallastown. But the main warehouse is in Reno. It’s the Sticker Guy warehouse. And we’ve had offices in Brazil, but that’s closed. We had one in Amsterdam when I was living there but we closed that one.

So the fact that there is an office in Tokyo may mean that there might be a We’re Loud in Japan soon?

We’ve talked about it and I actually had a date reserved and everything, and a venue reserved a couple of years ago we were going to do it. But the band I wanted to bring declined the offer, so we didn’t do it. And anyway I am not sure that Tokyo is the right place. Because I think one of the focal points of the festival is that we do it in unlikely places, and places where there aren’t already a lot of festivals happening, I think Tokyo has a lot going on. Not that Istanbul doesn’t but I don’t think you have any garage punk festivals in Istanbul.

And now, what next? Now that we’ve wrapped up Istanbul, you guys I’m sure have new stuff that is already cooking.

Yes, Puerto Rico, the dates are announced. It’s the middle of February 15-16-17th of February. The first part of the line up has been announced and after a few days in Cyprus relaxing I am going to work on announcing the second part of the line up.

Who is in the first part?

It’s the Oblivions, New Bomb Turks, Quintron and Miss Pussycat. And Oblivions and Quintron will play together which is a huge deal to me. And yes those are the headliners, (also) Subsonics, Gino and the Goons.

So let’s talk a little bit about punk. Why punk?

Why what? Why do I like it?

Why is We’re Loud revolving around it? What is punk, your take on it.

I should probably point out that We’re Loud Fest started off as a, it was a release party for a record we put out called We’re Loud. So this guy named Jamie came to us with a big box of cassette tapes from the ‘90s. And he had some problems with drugs from the ‘90s and he was moving basically from city to city around the States. He lived in four different cities like Phoenix, Los Angeles, and in each city he was playing in bands, and recording bands, and like doing a lot of drugs, and then leaving that town to try to get away from drugs and then basically repeating for around 10 years. So he ended up with a hundred songs, more than a hundred songs that he had recorded by I don’t kno 20 or 30 different bands. He sent us all these songs and we chose the best 32 songs I think or 33 and made a double LP. One of the songs is called We’re Loud, and so that’s what we named (the festival and) that’s one of my favorite songs on the record. So that became the name of the album and then the festival was a release party for that album. That record is, probably in 25 years of me making records is definitely one of my favorite releases that we’ve done. Everything is perfect. I mean I do not know how to answer your question what is punk. I like raw, fast, genuine, sincere music, you know. I like all kinds of music, not, not true, I don’t just like punk rock. I like all kinds of good music. You know music played by humans with instruments.

But your festivals are not only about music. It is about the culture people are going to immerse themselves in, the food, the sights. For example the Istanbul leg was not a dive hop only, there was an amazing boat tour along the Bosphorus as well.

I think when I’m planning the festivals, first of all one of the reasons I wanted to do it here in Istanbul is because I’ve been here several times, and had good experiences, made friends over the years. 2007 was my first visit. I think the program of the festival is a reflection of my experiences during my various visits here. I mean the first time I came, we went to Peyote. The Raws played at Peyote, 2007 that was my first visit to Istanbul. So we had to do something at Peyote of course. Like I told you before in May I went to Eksibir. I’m seeing it through a foreigner’s eyes of course, so I try to make a plan that will be fun for other people who come from other countries.

But something that will also be fun for people who live in the city.

Yeah, also at the same time consulting with locals to make sure that they are not gonna be bored out of their heads. I actually didn’t think that the locals would appreciate the Bosphorus tour very much because you guys are taking the boat back and forth between Asia and Europe like every other day probably.  

OK, I will repeat this question again and not only from a musical perspective either, what is punk?

That’s a really hard question to answer, to be honest, especially in this condition (fresh out of the hamam) you know after the weekend. I don’t know I mean, well I mean to me the DIY. The DIY has a lot to do with punk rock. You just, if you dont like the way things are or if there arent the kind of shows you wanna see happening then you have to make them happen. If you wanna, you just have to do it yourself. That’s a big part of what punk rock is to me, I guess.

(Menchetti and his team are currently finalizing the plans for a debaucherous take over Puerto Rico mid-February, Debauch-a-Rico and for more information on the upcoming festival, please visit: https://www.slovenly.com/wereloudfest/debauch-a-rico/ )