Chaos in Tejas in Doubt

Organizer Timmy Hefner says he simply can’t top himself

Timmy Hefner last May on the eve of Chaos in Tejas 9
Timmy Hefner last May on the eve of Chaos in Tejas 9 (by John Anderson)

On Friday, Chaos in Tejas organizer Timmy Hefner posted a status on the local punk/metal festival’s Facebook page that began with, “Ok, so I know everyone keeps asking, but we are very sad to say that in 2014 there will be no giant fest like normal. Maybe a smaller, scaled down thing, but even that is up in the air at this point.”

The underground festival, which generally takes place over the Memorial Day weekend Downtown, became a honing beacon for an international audience of kids with chin tattoos, dreadlocks, and black pyramid spiked vests. 2014 marks CiT’s 10th anniversary. Hefner called this morning to discuss his decision to minimize the annual spring throwdown.

Austin Chronicle: The announcement that you wouldn’t do a big festival this year came as a surprise. When did you come to that decision?

Timmy Hefner: I kind of knew before last year, but I wasn’t 100% sure. Obviously, it was a hard decision to make. In the end, I knew I couldn’t top myself and I didn’t necessarily see a point in doing another festival. Everyone’s suggested I just scale it back, but I’m not talking about topping myself in terms of more bands and more venues.

It’s topping myself in unique performances, like having a band that I’ve loved forever playing for the first time ever in the U.S. That’s why I’m not even sure I’ll do a small fest, because I’d still want a cool headliner, whether they draw 300 or 5,000 people – something cool that no one’s had in the states. That’s what I've always tried for.

AC: Last year it was great to see the Damned, because everyone likes them. Yet I felt the strongest response was for bands like Infest, who’d never played Texas, or Framtid, which had never been to America. That’s what people were going nuts for.

TH: And that’s what I always wanted Chaos to be. Now I feel like I’m running out of cool, unique things that I’m really excited about.

AC: What are you working on now in terms of booking?

TH: I do a few shows in Austin, but a lot of the stuff I’d book Transmission already takes care of, so there’s no point in me doing it. For a while it was me and Transmission doing shows together, then finally I was like, “I’m busy with other stuff, you guys have this.”

I’m working for Ground Control touring, a company based in New York that books national tours for bands. It’s keeping me busy. I’m booking tours for Merchandize, Parquet Courts, Perfect Pussy, Bolt Thower, and Power Trip – a bunch of bands. It’s going really well.

I’m still booking some shows in town. Lately it’s been a lot of electronic experimental. I’ve been doing a lot of stuff with the Holodeck Records dudes and I have an upcoming show with Helm from England on Feb. 17. Those are the shows that no one else will do in town if I don’t do them.

AC: Not doing the giant festival will open up some time in your schedule.

TH: As much as Chaos in Tejas was amazing, it’s repeating itself more or less each year: the same weekends, the same venues, 100 bands. I’d like to do something in a different city, or a different state, or a different country to challenge myself a little. I felt like if I did another Chaos this year, it would be because I’m supposed to, not necessarily because I had these bands motivating me to do like in years past.

AC: What do you have planed for your label, 540 Records?

TH: I’m doing a new 7-inch for a Houston band called Back to Back, an awesome hardcore band. They’re playing a record release at the North Door February 28 with the Impalers, who I also recently put out a record by. I’m also doing a three-way split 12-inch with Merchandise, Milk Music, and Destruction Unit – two or three songs from each band all on one LP. It’ll be out in April. I’m really excited about that.

AC: Looking back at the nine years of doing Chaos in Tejas, what were the unbelievable moments for you?

TH: That’s definitely hard. Bastard is my single favorite hardcore record of all time. They played on the sixth Chaos. They’d never played the United States, ever. Cock Sparrer was another big one for me, because at that point, they hadn’t played the U.S. since like 1995 and they’re also one of my favorite bands of all time. Anyone who’s been to my house knows there’s a five-foot Cock Sparrer poster in the living room.

What I’m really proud of are the weird, random bands that got thrown in and actually went over well. It was fun to watch Dead Moon play for a bunch of punks. This year it was kind of the same with Andy Stott. During peak European festival season, to have him not be at Primavera and be at my fest was very flattering.

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Chaos in Tejas, Timmy Hefner, 540 Records, Holodeck Records, Helm, the Damned, Infest, Framtid, Bastard, Cock Sparrer, Merchandize, Parquet Courts, Perfect Pussy, Bolt Thower, Power Trip, Milk Music, Destruction Unit, Impalers, Back to Back

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