One recent Sunday night, Daniel Dismal collected $10 cover charges from behind a folding table at Boyle Heights' gritty BLVD bar for a four-band heavy metal show that had been moved from Complex in Glendale just hours earlier, due to flooding. Dismal, a burly, bearded biker type, booked (and rebooked) the event and acted as its sound engineer. The hastily relocated show was just another example of the roll-with-the-punches DIY ethic central to his 17 years behind Church of the 8th Day, L.A.'s preeminent promoter of underground metal bands.
"It's become like my child," he says over lunchtime beers at a cafe near his Kagel Canyon home. "I've seen it flourish and grow. Sometimes it's let me down and sometimes I've let it down, and at the end of the day we're still hugging it out."
Once best known as "Dan from Crematorium" (he's fronted the local death-metal mainstays since 1996), he's now more usually "Daniel from Church of the 8th Day," putting on 160-plus shows each year — mostly extreme metal subgenres but also punk, hip-hop and indie rock — on top of his day job with metal record label Century Media.
"Going after the club, finding the club, getting the date, booking the bands, making the fliers — I mean, I do everything," says Dismal, a native Angeleno in his early 40s.
Cot8D emerged from Dismal's experiences on the other side of the gigging equation with Crematorium. Like so many L.A. musicians, he was tired of the presale ticket model often employed by promoters, wherein bands must commit to selling a certain number of tickets in order to secure a given show (also called "pay-to-play"). Unlike most L.A. musicians, he took action.
"I actually am friends with the [pay-to-play promoters] who work in Hollywood and I understand what they have to go through," he says. But it was clear many bands needed an alternative. "So I became that guy."
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Initially booking only Crematorium dates, Dismal soon recognized that other bands could benefit from his ability to put together bills and tirelessly publicize them. He mostly books the 200-capacity Complex but also does shows at the Echo/Echoplex and Regent Theater in collaboration with Spaceland Presents, and at the Fonda, El Rey and Roxy with Goldenvoice. He's had two different partners in Cot8D (currently Eric Schuman), which "makes money, but it's not a lot." Already earning a living from his regular job, Dismal shuns "presale" shows and, whenever possible, pays bands.
Key to Dismal's credibility is the three-day "Murderfest" he created, initially at Downey's Hully Gully in 2003, then annually at the Knitting Factory until it closed in 2009. Despite losing $14,000 on Murderfest's second incarnation, Dismal made subsequent editions viable, while putting bands such as Despise You, Converge, Baroness and Eyehategod before large crowds. He said Murderfest's return now "seems more realistic" thanks to his work with Spaceland and, in the meantime, offers smaller "Mini-Murders" at Complex.
Dismal also staged early shows by metal luminaries such as Suicide Silence and Mastodon, but says that perhaps his greatest joy in Cot8D is simply empowering hardworking musicians. He lovingly recalls the "what-the-fuck?" reaction of a previously pay-to-play band when he handed them $4,000 for an unusually well-attended 2007 show.
"It's a fulfillment," he says. "That's the whole reason why the name is Church of the 8th Day: because I believe that music, to us, is our religion and it fulfills a hole inside of us."