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Interviews : “I didn’t want to just be a musician, I wanted to be an entrepreneur” – An Interview with Joel Orford (Lagerstein)

By on October 19, 2017

Lagerstein – Joel Orford

Joel Orford is the violin player and spokesperson for Brisbane pirate metal vagabonds, Lagerstein. The band are concluding a successful (and long!) tour of the pubs and clubs of Europe. Orford called me from his tour stop in France to check in and discuss life on the road, the business of metal and how he decided to make Lagerstein his professional pursuit eschewing more traditional career paths. What follows is a unique insight into an Australian band’s ‘can do’ attitude and to recognise the dedication and focus it takes to ‘make it’ as a professional musician performing original heavy metal.

When we first went on tour in Europe with Alestorm in 2013 it was like a light switched in my head, I had this opportunity to see a successful band run their whole operation every day and I realized that if you want to take this to a higher level it is going to have to operate at a much higher level. I think that is when I decided that I didn’t want to just be a musician but I wanted to be an entrepreneur and that my band is kind of like my adventure. The seven of us, we always talk about this, we see ourselves– We are most inspired by things like small little tech companies like app startups and things like this where it is just a small amount of people and they just get in and do all the work”

That was rather a long opening quote to offer however the full context of Orford’s statement is crucial to understanding the band’s philosophy. To underline the point, the members of Lagerstein started their own management company (Kegstand Productions), assuming the responsibility of booking shows, tours and releasing music. This band is self-made and operates very much like the tech companies and startups that Orford and his bandmates admire.

All startups spend significant time building rapport with prospects and potential partners, so what is Orford’s take on that process for Lagetstein?

I send a lot more emails than I receive. We just have a very strong belief that it is only going to be done off our own backs and our own hard work and especially now with the proliferation of bands because of the internet, no one is going to do it for you”

Touring Europe, the continent the band have spent a significant percentage of 2017 plundering, especially as they are an Australian band, presents challenges. Adding the brave decision to self-represent, I ask Orford how the band approached organising such a significant tour and career milestone.

I think it’s a mixture of kind of charisma and a willingness to meet people. More than anything it’s a willingness to take a lot of no’s and not let that phase you, to believe that a ‘yes’ is just around the corner. That is what booking shows in Europe this year has felt like. In November last year when we started doing it, it was pretty daunting. Then as pieces start falling into place you just get more confidence that you can do it. I always believe that if you can imagine that it can be done, there is no reason that you can’t be doing it.”

Passion. That excruciating and disingenuous buzz word that is used liberally by real-estate agents, car salespeople and personnel/ recruitment services. Does it apply to Lagerstein and the band’s members collective decision to choose metal over (say) a job in an office? I suspect there is there a deeper and more meaningful emotion driving the bands motive, which Orford duly confirms.

What inspires me to play in Lagerstein? I want to spread joy around the world. I did the classical music thing for seven years and I went into the conservatorium for a little bit, however, I didn’t really find myself there. So, I obtained a degree in philosophy and to be honest I think that degree was the most important thing that I ever did. I feel like it gave me some clarity of thinking. I feel like where I am now has been a very natural path. I started my first metal band when I was 15 and Lagerstein is the fifth metal band I have played in. I was 19 when we started. I feel like philosophy helps me clarify my thinking, it feels so natural that I have done this work in philosophy and it set me up for taking my love of art and love of music and be able to operate in the world”

What I took from the conversation with Orford is that every experience is an opportunity to learn, grow and put that experience to good use provided you have a plan or objective. In that sense, Orford and the Lagerstein crew are every bit as entrepreneurial as anyone that you may read about in Success magazine or hear from through the Ted Talks series.

Lagerstein completed their massive European tour (that started way back in April) on October 6th at The Gryphon in Bristol, UK. The band’s upcoming Australian tour is eagerly anticipated and starts on the 2nd December at the Wooly Mammoth in Brisbane, with more dates scheduled on the east coast through December.


Andrew is a musician who has spent many years performing on the stages of the pubs and clubs of Queensland. A devotee of the broad church that is rock, punk, funk, jazz and of course all genres of metal... he now shares his enthusiasm via a burgeoning pursuit of music journalism. Follow him on twitter @andymckaysmith