“It’s about having a good time, doing cool shows and getting people together”: How London Doom Collective are feeding the capital’s heavy music underground

For fans of all things slow and heavy, London Doom Collective are a key part of the city’s scene. Ahead of the third of their Masters Of The Riff fests, they explain how a lockdown compilation turned into a growing DIY community…

“It’s about having a good time, doing cool shows and getting people together”: How London Doom Collective are feeding the capital’s heavy music underground
Nick Ruskell
World Downfall Photography

“We do this because we love the scene that we're all in,” says Ollie Isaac. “It’s a lot of work and stress to make things happen – none of us would be in this if we didn't like doing it!”

Meet London Doom Collective. If you’ve been to a heavy, doomy, stonery show in the capital over the past couple of years, you probably already know them. Since 2020, LDC – Ollie, Chris Jones, Mark Davidson and now Sean Durbin – have become an increasingly important cog in putting big riffs on stages (or, in some cases, floors). Forget three-figure prices for standing tickets, having your pants pulled down by “convenience fees” and being actively punished for being a fan by the such-obvious-theft-it-should-be-illegal practice of dynamic pricing, as with all DIY, underground entities, LDC is a grassroots enterprise about making something cool that everyone – fan and band – can get involved in.

“We just want the scene to work, for everyone to have a big community, and for bands to have a great time playing a show,” says Ollie. “We’re just the middle people that go, ‘Let's put these gigs on with these bands at this place.’”

On the first weekend in March, “this place” will be Oslo in Hackney, and “this gig” will be the third instalment of their Masters Of The Riff festival. A three-day jamboree showcasing a load of excellent British heaviness from the likes of Elephant Tree, Mountain Caller, Dead Witches, Tuskar, Gurt and loads more, it's quickly become an annual treat for those after a weekend of fuzz and volume.

And it's growing. Alongside the likes of Wallowing, Lowen, Conan, Pantheist, Esoteric and Desert Storm, last year's line-up featured their first overseas acts in the shape of aptly-hatted Belgian stoners Gnome and Belfast riff champs Slomatics. The coming shindig, meanwhile, will host their first transatlantic band, Canadian sludge lords Dopethrone.


It’s a mark of how right LDC get it that things have grown to such a place so relatively quickly. Four years ago, they didn’t even exist. Bored during lockdown, and wanting to do something to help support grassroots venues imperiled by COVID, Ollie, Chris and Mark – all members of excellent sludge outfit Old Horn Tooth – decided to put together a compilation, Voices Of The Void, to raise money for Music Venue Trust.

“We were getting bored with doing nothing,” says Chris. “So we put together a compilation of bands from that scene as a fundraiser. Once everyone was allowed out of lockdown, we decided we wanted to put on a show. So we put on a two-day event at The Dev in Camden with a lot of the bands that were on the compilation, as way to get everybody back out again. There was Purple Kong, Vandampire, The Lunar Effect, Old Horn Tooth, loads of bands. Everyone played for free, people got in for free, and it was a massive, massive success.”

After that, they began putting on shows around London, at The Black Heart in Camden, at occult-tastic Hackney bar Helgi’s, at Clapton boozer and home of the K! Pit, Blondies.

“We started doing Thursday nights at Helgi’s, showcasing a lot of doom and sludge stuff that wasn’t really getting a look in anywhere else,” says Chris. “It was trying to be a bit of a leg up to everybody.”


In 2022, they had the idea for the first Masters Of The Riff, held over three days at the New Cross Inn. Chris laughs that, “I just picked a load of bands that I really wanted to see,” for the bill, but the fest continues to show a lot of the values of what LDC are doing. Though the economics of it means it can’t be free like the first gig, tickets are at a user-friendly price point, while also ensuring bands get, as Ollie puts it, “the best experience possible”. That means using good gear, getting beer, getting paid properly. They also want it to be a visible way for bands to be able to get a gig in the capital, especially if they’re not from there.

“London is such a massive city and a massive scene that, if you're from Birmingham, say, and you try to get a gig here, it can be difficult,” he says. “Bands from outside can find it hard to get a support slot because they're not here all the time and they don’t know the right people. Being in a band, we speak to other bands quite a lot, and that makes it easier for them to get into London than it would be to email [email protected] or whatever. And if it means that people from the scene are there and they watch a band and they decide to book them for Desertfest or something – amazing. That's the whole point of it.”

"We want to make sure that the bands who play are actually really looked after and made to feel really welcome," adds Chris. "Especially if they've come a long way, like Gnome last year. They didn't know anybody, so we had to make sure they felt at home and had a good time.

"We don't like turning up to venues where the promoter isn't there and things aren't ready. That makes us driven to to make it a more comfortable experience for everyone playing."

Noting that the first time Somerset stoners Sergeant Thunderhoof performed inside the M25 was at an LDC show, they are also keen to build up a community through their gigs.

“You can go to a show on your own, and you'll see loads of friends, be it in bands or within the scene, and that's what it's about,” says Ollie. “It's bringing everyone together under one roof, where everyone feel safe and comfortable, and can go to a gig on their own, and know that nine times out of 10 you're gonna bump into a bunch of mates. And bands might go, ‘Oh, let's do a gig together,’ and all that just makes the machine go more.”


Within their own ranks, there’s an example of this in Sean. Having moved to London from abroad before lockdown, he learned of the first all-dayer while playing at a jazz jam in Dalston, when he struck up conversation with a lad in a YOB shirt who told him about the show at The Dev. The two would eventually go on to be bandmates in Troy The Band, and Sean would form a friendship with LDC via a radio show he had them on, and found the gigs as a good place to meet people and make mates in his adopted city.

“I didn't really know anybody, especially not in the heavy music scene,” he says. “I’d started this band, recorded an EP, sent it around to people to try and get shows, and Chris was one of them. At the same time, I was doing a radio show, and I had the idea to explicitly do one on all the bands from Masters Of The Riff. Chris and Ollie came on to chat about it, which was the first time I actually met them. And then I just went to a lot of the shows, because it's a place where you can end up seeing the same people and develop friendships.”


Not for the first time, this year’s fest will see LDC keeping punters lubricated with their own beer, teaming up with Black Iris and DMC breweries.

“It’s another talking point,” says Ollie, “because why not? It’s cool to work with independent breweries on something like that, to make something special together.”

And that’s what London Doom Collective ultimately want. Everything they make gets put back into the next event, because they want there to be a next event for bands to play and for people to go to.

“Just having a good time and doing cool shows and getting people together: that’s the point of it,” says Ollie. “You make friends, you have fun, you create lot of memories… or forget memories. And something like this is important for that.

“I guess we just want the scene to work.”

Masters Of The Riff III takes place at Hackney Oslo March 1 – 3, with a pre-show at Helgi's on February 29.

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