5 Questions with Mike Mahgerefteh
1. Where would you like to take your audience when Galaxy Dynamite is performing?
When I am listening to or watching my favorite bands, especially live, I get taken to a different place. All of a sudden - I start drifting away and sinking deeper into myself. I start thinking of different projects I could start, and how I could execute them. I start thinking about projects I already have started, and how I could make them better. I start thinking about my family, and how I need to spend more time with them. I think about how I could make my life better in every facet, and how I could take steps to make it happen. Thinking about how I need to keep my house clean. Thinking about pushing myself to work harder at the gym. Thinking to not be so hard on myself and that I am a person just like everyone else who is allowed to make mistakes and learn from them. I imagine all of the possibilities. Its limitless. ALL of the possibilities… they are ALL limitless.
Suddenly ---- I snap back to reality… realizing that I was simply getting swept up in the mutual inspiration emanating from the stage. I was being so moved by what was occurring around me, that the only things occupying my brain were thoughts on how to make my world a better place. And that's where I want to take our audience when Galaxy Dynamite is performing. I want to take them to their own inspiration and their own muse.
2. Who locally inspires you, your performance and creativity?
Man that is going to be a huge list of names haha. First and foremost, my Dad is definitely my biggest inspiration… I look up to him and respect him more than anybody. Thinking about what he went through and how hard he’s worked for what he’s achieved… I can only hope to be half as successful as him. As far as my performance goes… I’d say the drummer that left the most impact on me would either be Steve Archer (after all, he helped to teach me how to play drums), or the late great Joey Rudacil from The Kill Circuit. They were my very favorite Hampton Roads band and he was no joke behind the drum kit.
As far as my love for promoting, I learned the most from watching Scott Mclain with his work on Camp Barefoot. Camp Barefoot was simply heaven on earth and I learned more about how to throw StarFire Festival from watching and attending Scott’s events (I went to Camp Barefoot 8 years in a row) than anything else, Jason Bruner put in such good work in transforming many local venues into full blown active hubs for entire communities to rally behind. He seemed to be one of the only promoters who wanted to bring bands running the regional (and sometimes national) festival circuits to our area. It was awesome seeing his work with The Jewish Mother Backstage and Doc Taylors. Elena Montello from Hope House Foundation for her amazing work with all of the events they put on. It's still jaw-dropping what they put together and I strive to one day be able to throw and promote events like they do. It's all about learning from the best and from your mistakes.
Lastly I am very inspired by Harvey Lindsay and what he accomplished for Hampton Roads and the community.
3. What makes a great venue to perform in?
To me, it’s all about how a venue FEELS.
Whether a venue sounds good, the food is great, the stage or sound system is huge, the parking is close by...none of that matters to me. What matters to me is the energy of the room. The history. The camaraderie. The intentions of the room. Once I feel good, the music follows. Everyone can pick up on the awkward energy. When the staff doesn't even want to be there. When the venue is a soulless money sucking vessel with a stage attached. When the sound guy can’t be bothered to do his job competently. Everyone can feel it.
But when the staff treats you like their own, the venue owner takes the time to connect with you, and the room was built with love and passion towards delivering great times to their friends…. That's when you can feel it. My favorite venue to perform at was called ‘The Hot Spot’ in a little town called Waynesboro, Virginia. It was built for the purpose of the owner wanting a music venue where he lived. He brought all of his favorite bands there. The place was decorated with awesome heady rare artifacts of all of the tours and music events which had an impact on his life. The stage under the musicians’ feet was painted blue with clouds on it because you were in heaven when playing. The green room was completely covered from wall-to-wall with show posters. The staff was friendly and endearing. The venue named a sandwich after Galaxy Dynamite (a BBQ sandwich with apple coleslaw if I remember correctly.) Its little touches like that which always made it feel like I was driving 3 hours to play in my living room. I always looked forward to performing at The Hot Spot. Rest in peace.
4. Star Fire Festival, please describe its current state, and your vision for Star Fire 5 years out.
Named after our Space Rock Opera, StarFire Festival was Initially intended to be Galaxy Dynamites album release party. StarFire Festival is a charity celebration of music, art, cosplay and video games. My vision was to take the classic psychedelic American spiritually transformational music festival experience, like Woodstock, Lockn Festival or Electric Forest/Rothbury, and combine it with a video game and cosplay convention. This has never been done before, because a field in the middle of nowhere is not conducive to electronics, computers, and the internet. Cosplayers do not want to work hard and spend hundreds of dollars on their outfits, only to sit in a car for 8 hours and then stand in a weather-filled muddy field. I decided to take these ideas and combine them into one concept, to benefit Hope House Foundation. This past year, I had 21 bands on 4 stages. I had video game tournaments with E-sports displayed on the TV’s. Funk, Rock, Electronic and Psychedelic Jam Bands played featuring live painters and flow artists. A hot dog eating contest occurred next to tarot card readers. The most talented cosplayers I had ever seen lined up to show off the hours of hard work towards their costumes for the audience in competition for money and prizes. The idea is to take 2 distinct subcultures and introduce them to each other. So far it has been a huge success. StarFire Festival 2 which occurred this past April had an attendance of more than 3,000. We had almost 1,000 people at our last pre-party in December. My vision for StarFire Festival 5 years out is for it to be a traveling event. I want to go all around the country and feature bands, video game tournaments, and cosplay contests and fashion shows. All to benefit charity. StarFire Festival will be modular, to bend itself and transform each individual venue into a party that nobody has ever seen before. Whatever form it takes in the future, it will always be a celebration of Music, Art, Video games and Cosplay, and it will always benefit Hope House Foundation.
5. Stagecraft of Mike Mahgerefteh can best be described as...?
When I am performing with Galaxy Dynamite, I am going to deliver every ounce of my being onto that stage. All of the joy, loss, jubilation, devastation, trials, tribulations, wins, lessons, pain and love in my life all culminate to prepare me for the moment I step on that stage. Every moment of my life has led up to that point. In fact, every moment of my parents’ life has led up to that point. And THEIR parents, and so on and so on. From when life was created, everything had to have happened perfectly and with perfect timing to lead up to the point where I am sitting on stage behind that drum kit with Galaxy Dynamite clicking off the start to the next song. And I mean it. I really mean it. When I give everything, and the audience gives everything…That’s when the real magic happens.
To hear more from Mike and the boys, check ‘em out in Bandcamp.
About Dwight Easter: Digital folk artist, family man and bread merchant. Some of the best moments in my life are experiencing the power and influence of great art. I came up in the Norfolk era of the M80’s, Buttsteak, and Antic Hay.