Mike Mahgerefteh (Galaxy Dynamite/StarFire Festival)
After a brief hiatus, Galaxy Dynamite has come back stronger than ever over the past 9 months. The release of a brand new single last June signaled the band's return, and the announcement of a new album and their inaugural StarFire Festival has brought fans to the peak of anticipation. Drummer Mike Mahgerefteh was nice enough to take a few minutes out of his day to answer some questions for us. Check out what he had to say!
While I know your hiatus was short-lived, how does it feel to be back in the saddle?
We decided that we would only continue this project if we did it the right way. Galaxy Dynamite used to be an improv band, and we used to just be three guys stepping on stage and figuring it out for 3 hours. And it worked, the project gained traction and we achieved more than I ever could imagine in my dreams (Like opening up for Lotus at The NorVA). So when we decided that we wanted to continue the project, we sat down with a calendar. From April 2016 to April 2017, we mapped out each week what we were going to do. When we were going to start writing songs for the album, when we were going to start recording, when we were going to release it. The timing is completely intentional. We wanted our festival to be at the beginning of the season, so we weren't conflicting with anything else. We wanted our album to be released during the summer, so it had a few months to marinate in promotion before we hit large college markets. We know that if we gain traction during the fall, we will be on the radar for major festivals that we have our eye on. So in short - after a year and a half break, we are back and better than ever baby.
What are some highlights since your return?
We are opening up for Perpetual Groove and Trae Pierce & The TStones (4-Time Grammy Award Winning Band) on 4/20 at The National. We are directly supporting Octave Cat (Members of Dopapod and Lotus) at Gypsy Sallys. We are also performing at The Hermitage museum in Norfolk for an event that is curated by the same people who do Burning Man. Lastly, we have great main stage slots at two awesome new regional festivals, Yonderville and Appalachian Mountain Flame Off. And of course we have StarFire, our own music festival that has a unique concept - a video game /comic convention mixed with your classic music festival experience.
How did “Back To Square One” represent the band’s place at the time of release?
It actually wasn’t planned that our first song back was called that, but there couldn’t be a more fitting name. When we started working on the project again, we decided that it would be different. It would be INTENTIONAL. Actual songs, with hooks and melodies and recognizable confident themes and anthems. So we literally started from scratch and our first track was "Back To Square One."
Do we have a name for the upcoming album release? If so, where does it come from?
Galaxy Dynamite's upcoming concept album, Forward! Into Oblivion, will be released with an accompanying graphic novel series. In the series, “Forward! Into Oblivion” is exclaimed before the ultimate weapon is unleashed, destroying all of existence.
How will this album be different from your debut release, as far as both the music and the recording process? How will it be similar?
Our first CD that we recorded was created in 4 days. We did it live, totally set up in a studio with microphones turned on and we just jammed for a long weekend and took the best clips and made it into a CD. This album is different. Every song was written before we stepped into the studio. We recorded it through ‘tracking,’ which means each member recorded separately and it was all put together to make the music. I think this way, we can deliver a more perfect and produced product. It will be similar because, although most of the songs are more ‘structure’ and lyric oriented, we have a few tracks that go back to our roots and will mash you flat with that furious psychedelic dance party we are known for.
How did the partnership with O’Connor Brewing come about?
We had witnessed a few great music events at O’Connors, and I decided that I would try my hand at throwing a festival. I intentionally threw it there so that this endeavor would be as easy as possible. All the infrastructure is there, the staff, the beer, the food trucks, outlets and roof (its a 4,000+ capacity indoor/outdoor venue in the middle of Norfolk). All I had to do was plan the entertainment and production, and raise money for the charity (its a free event). I couldn’t imagine what it takes to organize thousands of people in the middle of nowhere for 4 days. We are also excited to announce that O’Connor Brewing will be featuring a special pour-over, a golden tart ale mixed with passion fruit and ‘Galaxy’ hops from Australia called ‘Galaxy Dynamite’. So the amazing staff, the existing infrastructure that has survived the stress of previous music events, and a beer with our name on it were a perfect lure for us to launch our own event.
It would seem that the band has a strong connection with its home state of Virginia. What is it about VA that inspires you guys?
We all grew up here and we love representing our hometown! VA is for lovers <3.
What caused you to decide to make StarFire Festival a free event?
When you are throwing a large music event like that, you can look at it through different lenses. My main goal with StarFire was to promote my band, Galaxy Dynamite...not to make money. So because of that, I decided to make it free. The only way that I could make it free was if I got sponsors. A huge incentive for sponsors to jump on board is to involve a charity. So that is how StarFire became a free charity event. I have had my ear to the ground for the past 7 years, so I know which bands are actually hitting the pavement and generating hype, and which ones just look good on paper (way too expensive for the little that they draw). So I was able to keep my budget down because I booked great quality regional acts, and so with some help from friends of mine, we were able to secure enough sponsorship donations to pay for the production costs and so the festival is 100% free to the public :). I would rather just throw a big party with my band's name on it than charge a ton of money just to book a ton of expensive bands and be really stressed out for no reason.
Why the graphic novel series? Where does the band’s interest in it stem from? How does it correlate to your music and musical abilities?
We decided that we had to have one more angle. After discussing the album, we decided that we would make it into a ‘concept’ album; one that would follow a story. So because there is a story, why not create a graphic novel that tied along to it? That way there would be different symbols, characters, logos, and designs that didn't necessarily directly tie into ‘Galaxy Dynamite.’ Someone could theoretically be a fan of the graphic novel series, but know nothing about its namesake music festival or associated concept album. And that's what we wanted. 3 projects that were interconnected, but stood out on their own merit. The festival. The graphic novel series. The album. All are connected, but each one of them offers unique ideas that will attract a broader range of people to get into our efforts.
The graphic novel series follows the album song-by-song. Every issue of the series is named after a song in the album. Every issue will be released in the order it is found in the album. The goal is that you are listening to the album while reading through the story - IN ORDER. Whatever is happening in the song is illustrated and explained in the graphic novel series. But both the graphic novel series and album are created to also stand alone on their own merit. ‘StarFire‘ follows the storied tale of Kevin Wolffe, his rise to world dominating power through 'StarFire Corporation' and how he deals with the mysterious threat from the heavens which jeopardizes the very fabric of our universe. As far as how it correlates with our musical abilities, we hope that it pushes our creativity to another direction then we would normally go into because of such a strong tie in with other mediums.
If the band had to agree on one aspect of the festival that they are most excited for as a group, what would it be?
I would definitely say, besides performing two entire sets, we are the most excited about ‘L.A.R.P.ing hour.’ Larping, or ‘Live Action Role Playing’ means just that: become anything you can think of. StarFire is a cosplay costume festival. From 4pm - 5pm at StarFire Festival, you become whatever you want. If you are dressed up as Spiderman: you ARE spider man. And you are REALLY talking to Batman. Its an inside joke….that everyone is in on. We think this is a really fun idea and we can’t wait to bring it bigger and bigger as the event grows. Imagine how silly everyone will be in their costumes pretending to be anything they can think of. It will be magic.
Check out the recording below of "Landing Strip" live from Camp Barefoot 2016, and see the following links for more info on Galaxy Dynamite and StarFire Festival!
StarFire Festival info link: https://www.facebook.com/event