After a crushing clash with The Golden Gods that left Brighton’s metal festival on it’s knees in 2010, the determined and impassioned organiser, Steve Dickson, was not one to let the blow consign the event to history.
After what has seemed like an ice age, the sophomore outing of MAMMOTHFEST is back this year with an asteroid size bang.
Read on to find out about this years festival and how Mammothfest avoided it’s own extinction..
Tell us how, when and why Mammothfest began…
Mammothfest began in 2009 when my metal first events company “Tactical Whore promotions” was doing very well booking upcoming bands from all over Europe to play Brighton while putting on local bands to help build their profiles. I simply decided to take things further and so this model became essentially the ethos for Mammothfest today.
Mammothfest is a pretty cool moniker, how did you come up with this?
I simply wanted; and still want to hold the biggest metal festival in the world so there was no bigger name than something Mammoth! To be honest I was very naive about how hard it would be to set up a smaller metal festival never mind something Mammoth hehe, so the pressure is really on now. Clearly the people have really responded to the name well and the brand has clearly stuck now.
So, you’ve been in a self imposed ice age for a little while now, explain why?
Mammothfest 2010 was a massive event not just for Brighton but also the biggest event I have held to date. 28 bands in one day in a >1000 capacity venue in Hove town Hall with Entombed, Orange Goblin, Sylosis, Malefice, Mnemic, Sybreed and so many other bands on 2 stages with a £35k budget, there was so much at stake.
Unfortunately the Metal Hammer Golden Globe awards in 2010 brought not only the news of competition from the godfather of metal Ozzy (how ironic!) and his festival “Ozzfest” but also the media partnership they had with Metal Hammer for their event that landed on exactly the same day as mine – but in the 30,000 capacity O2 arena in London!!!
Should I compete or get squashed? I decided to deliver and not let all the bands and the paying customers down but it meant taking a huge knock.
It is funny you mention Ice age, I felt very much like the character chasing the nut, doing everything i could to protect it but no matter how hard I tried I was clearly destined to lose my nut, b which I mean both my entire savings and almost umm, my nut…!
This announcement literally swept much of my market away from me so I suffered quite a financial loss. To be honest I lost over £20k, but at the end of the day I delivered up against the biggest competition and learned so much that I would be a fool not to use this knowledge and my contacts and skills to make the inevitable return of Mammothfest, and so far the support has been incredible.
What has Mammothfest learned from its previous event that you say nearly almost killed you?
Hmmm… Losing >£20k is not ideal for most people anyway but when I literally invested every penny and owed so much to investors to then learn I was to have a baby, the pressure on my family and life generally got unbearable for a while. I had to work every hour over time I could to pay everyone back and having built up my own business, to then find I was sucking the corporate c*** again with so much pressure; I’m sure it’s not difficult for people to understand why for a while I was… not so happy in life. Pissed off doesn’t even come close…
BUT there was a turning point and that was when my daughter was born and I realised I had a responsibility not just to her but to myself and to so many around me to step and sort it out which is exactly what I did. Now my daughter is 3 years old, I’m debt free and what a feeling I now have knowing I have overcome such massive hurdles in my life and Mammothfest is back!
What appeals to you about using the Green Door Store in Brighton? I also note you’re hoping to move into an outdoor event at some point too?
The green door store is the ideal venue in so many ways. It is the right capacity for a return event, it is right underneath Brighton train station so it’s very easy for people to reach from any part of the country, it has a savage sound system for live metal bands and the right vibe for the sort of event I wish to create. (It’s dingy enough to feel a little rough around the edges while also giving the feeling you are in an cider testing cellar…Ideal setting for Mammothfest’s return!)
In terms of an outdoor event it is absolutely something I wish to do but that’s not all up to me. If the people show they support for Mammothfest (wherever you may be) and if over the next few years the business remains a profitable successful enterprise (with 100% of the profits reinvested to ensure continual growth) then I already have a site and some financial investors in place ready to take things to the this level. For now I wish to keep my feet firmly on the ground and take it one year at a time but if things go to plan then I see no reason why we can’t have our own outdoor event one day.
At what point during the year do you start working on assembling the line-up — the day after the festival ends? What are the biggest challenges you face?
I normally start booking bands around October time but I can take ages simply because I really want the right bands on the bill so that I create a line up that will not just sell tickets but provide an exciting and diverse range of new and established bands that draw a crowd together. Get this wrong and I end up with an empty room, loads of disappointed bands and a bank balance that looks less appealing than the arse crack of a septic Rab C Nesbitt!
This is the biggest challenge I face every time, it’s the main product but it’s also about promoting the event well, supporting the scene, building bridges, branding and so much more, I love it.
I am always looking for new bands so I urge them to email me so we can have a listen when we get time – firstname.lastname@example.org – and don’t be disheartened if I do not respond. I get hundreds of demos every year and only so much time to reply but I do hear you all and only have so many slots available at the moment but this will improve if everyone including the bands support Mammothfest so I can grow to promote more bands. We have to support each other. Its not rocket science.
What was your criteria for booking bands this year, has competition been particularly fierce?
Overall I’m looking at getting the right balance of diverse styles of rock and metal on the bill to start with. I want some big bands (we all love) to come to Brighton naturally, and then bring in a number of bands from across the UK (and World in the future) that have really impressed me in the last year. Add to that a mix of the local bands that have again worked very hard this year to build their name and you get Mammothfest.
We consider the uniqueness of the bands sound, quality of the song writing, their energy, how active the bands have been in the last year, how their fan base has risen (legitimate fans btw, I can tell a mile off when a band has bought fans and that kills it for us straight away), who they are touring with and what their plans are over the coming months.
All things considered competition is incredibly fierce. We have received so many band applications of such a high standard it has been very difficult to choose sometimes. Because of this wonderful position we already have a plan for a number of bands in 2015 so even if we don’t host bands this year we hope to the next.
We recognise the high standard and want to give these bands a platform to show the world they mean business. Giving bands at a lower level a chance to play a festival also gives them the confidence and drive to approach other festivals to push out of their local areas and grow.
Essentially the bands we book have this way of make me put their music on again and again but also impress my team when I show them these bands. Between us we take a very balanced approach to deciding which bands are on the line up and we hope people agree; this year is an absolute stinker!
Aside from of course, the music, what else can Mammothfest fans expect?
At the main event bands, bands and more bands with a few rock and metal DJs between bands! We also have the official Mammothfest rock and metal club night in town on the Saturday night for those wishing to continue the party and we have a few other surprises in store but we cannot say now as that would ruin the surprises! There will be a range of Ales available at the bar and stalls outside to add to the flavour but essentially this is a fucking intense metal festival designed to blow people’s minds .
Asides from the main event we are planning to secure deals with local hostels for cheap weekend accommodation and arranging deals with local restaurants so all our customers can get discounted excellent hot meals most of the day literally across the road. For those less affording, there are loads of cheap food places all over Brighton within a 5 minute walk of our event and there is always the beach to sleep on after the official Mammothfest rock and metal club night in town which will go on until 4am for those that can still handle raging hangovers. This is Brighton, it’s what we do!
We are also holding an ever growing number of Mammothfest warm up events across the UK which will host bands from our Mammothfest 2014 bill as well as some local bands so that we can see the new talent out there for our future events.
This is all part of a new initiative to do far more in the community to support local alternative venues and bars for they are often the hearts of our communities. With this in mind we are also hosting a drinks promotion again across numerous alternative bars and venues across the south where metal heads only need to say “Mammothfest” when ordering a drink to get their name put in a jar. The person who supports their local bar most will win a weekend ticket to Mammothfest 2014. Keep an eye out for the Mammothfest posters around the bars! (www.mammothmetalfestival.co.uk/community)
We will also be holding raffles and competitions to win tickets to our events and we have a range of very reasonably priced merch for sale too for those inclined to fly the flag for our Mammothfest metal festival!
Are smaller festivals the way forward do you think? What are the benefits of attending rather than say, a behemoth such as Download..
Of course it’s great to go to such legendary institutions as Download where you can see so many of the greatest bands from all over the world in one weekend, but it don’t half suck paying ridiculous prices for the tickets, beer and food, getting home after it all hung over, skint, smelly and wet in a cramped train or car with 7 hours travelling in awful heat and traffic! (I say this but I love it really…)
But I feel I do raise a valid point; this is where local festivals are so important. It not only provides a local service for those who do not wish to travel, it makes the whole matter far more affordable and less hassle when you need to crawl home again. I also know some friends that are not so well and simply could never go somewhere so big and far away so Mammothfest is perfect for them.
Smaller festivals also have a major part to play in inspiring youngsters and upcoming local bands. In the words of Ben from Orange Goblin who once said to me, “it is all about cut teeth”. And he is right. The UK needs a system for rising bands to grow up through the ranks and not everyone wants to travel for ever to see the bands they love.
So as for whether it is the way forward, yes I do think smaller festivals have key role as long as they get it right but i can understand some concerns about there being too many etc… All I can say is that from all the people I have talked too, Brighton is crying out for Mammothfest or I would not be wasting my time.
What would you say is the one defining characteristic of Mammothfest is that sets it apart from all other festivals?
At the moment I am not going to suggest Mammothfest is some crazy unique event that is a million miles from anything anyone has ever attended before. But I hope one day it will be.
I have this vision of Mammothfest being a large outdoor metal festival in one of the most Sunny and beautiful areas of the country overlooking the sea (in the distance) up on a hill just outside Brighton.
Mammothfest will one day play host to the biggest bands in the world while continuing to provide as much exposure and opportunity as I can for the new blood and excite fans with new bands from all over the world one day and all locally at a very reasonable price…
To do this requires a different approach. I am extremely proud to say we are working closely with UK tech fest, Head Bangers Ball, Les Fest and a few other event promotion companies as well as many online sites including “Metal-Mouth” of course to share networks and help each other to be a success. There is no room for selfish squabbles, not in my world. I want to help everyone I can and only ask for a little help in return so we all thrive!?
Mammothfest takes place at The Green Door Store in Brighton (directly under Brighton’s train station) on 30-31st August. Weekend tickets are priced at just £18. Last band finishes at 10.30pm so the last train home is a doddle!
The kick ass line-up makes Mammothfest this year a must attend event, early bird tickets are now sold out but you can grab a weekend ticket while stocks last here – http://vanitasdirect.com/556-mammothfest