(In this post Andy Synn interviews Steve Dickson, the main man behind Mammothfest, whose 2015 edition took place last month in Brighton, England.)
Hello Steve. For the unenlightened amongst our readers, would you care to provide an outline of what Mammothfest is, how long it’s been going, etc?
No. I would rather shit the bed and roll in it for a week…ah shit sorry, wrong interview, yes it would be my absolute pleasure to enlighten all.
Mammothfest has been going since 2009 and our main objectives are to have a “Mammoth” outdoor metal festival in Brighton, bring the biggest bands in the world to our lovely seaside town, and support the underground bands by giving them the platforms they deserve/need to grow to become our future headliners because the big boys will not be around to play forever!
How did the fest actually get its start?
I used to run “Tactical Whore promotions” in Brighton and with the lack of other promoters down here it seemed to run a natural course of growth, and with there being no metal festival down here it made sense to step up. I had the contacts and know-how and I hated my day job so it made sense.
Care to name and shame the rest of the team, and outline who does what, and who has the worst personal hygiene/taste in music?
With 19 people in the team now I could bore everyone but the main thing for me to mention is that they are genuinely the most amazing people we could possibly have on our team. They are loyal, honest, and dedicated to the end. We are all volunteers (including me despite the financial investments I have made over the years) and we all understand the need to use our collective skills to keep costs down in order to build the brand up in a “2015” way; our thanks go to our failed governments over the years for our thriving austerity.
Rich Ravenhill (my business partner) is a machine, without him we would not be here now looking at growth and success. Ashley brings a wealth of knowledge in business and in the metal industry, while Bob Tett is a stage manager like no other, and Adam Sedgwick never stops working and, well, all the team are just absolute legends and equally as vital as another.
How has the reception for the festival been overall in the last couple of years?
It was clear from the moment we announced our return that this is what everyone wanted and since then the support has been so overwhelming at times that it really does move us. At the end of the day we see what we do as something people want — if they didn’t, we would not be having this lovely conversation. So it’s the people that make this what it is and for that I salute every single person!
It’s only been a month, but have you come down from the buzz and the high of October’s edition yet?
No. Still buzzing, not joking. And now we have cemented our headliners for 2016, I’m on a second high now knowing what will be next year. There really is no other drug like it.
What were some of your own personal highlights from the most recent edition?
Welcoming my childhood idols Onslaught on to the stage was a moment I will never forget. So much work goes into this and I find it all comes down to little magic moments that make it worthwhile. Booking the tour to make it happen for Psycroptic to play Mammothfest was another wonderful experience. Not without its difficulties, but that’s life. 84 bands in 3 days was another highlight in terms of proving we can professionally hold such large events. It was all so good, what can I say?
What sort of stuff does setting up a festival of this type – effectively from the ground up with no corporate backing, sponsorship, or name-brand recognition (at least, not at first anyway) – actually entail? How do you even get the ball rolling on something like this?
If I said it was a huge amount of work, that would be not enough. It is so massive and requires so much dedication it has already driven the breakup of one relationship in the past, and if it was not for my partner being so amazingly supportive, patient, and understanding now, we probably would not be having this conversation again.
I am sat here at the end of a 15-hour day. I do this nearly every day; we need to do everything we possibly can to make this work. Our artists work for free, our street team are out rain or shine ensuring our events are reaching as many people as we can, and even though we have had 2 successful events in a row now, we do not think for one second it will be like this next year.
Obviously you’ve gained much more attention and many more sponsors as you’ve gotten things off the ground, but is there any particular guidelines or rules you stick to when deciding who to work with, etc?
Yes, they need to support the metal scene. Simple as that! If they share in our ethos and want to build a better metal future, then already they are welcome at our events. It has to be relevant.
I assume/hope, with the massive number of positive reviews and responses I’ve seen, that each successful edition of the festival will only make things easier/better/bigger in the future?
Lol, we wish. Every year we learn what we can do better, and this leads to further additional work implementing improvements to ensure we guarantee the best customer experience, because at the end of the day that is what this is about. A weekend where people can forget about their shitty lives for a bit and get lost in heaven, or hell, subject to personal preferences of course.
How did the expansion to four stages/venues this year go? Something like that must bring its own pitfalls and logistical difficulties?
There were a few pitfalls, like having one venue further away than the others, but we just made sure the music on in there was different enough from the 2 closer-together venues to make it worthwhile, either being there all day or at least making the journey by foot down there on occasion.
We’ve definitely proved we can hold massive events, efficiently and with no run-overs, and proved to the market that we are a serious brand with serious intentions and ideas. We do NOT fuck about, and following the experiences of 2015 we have already put in place a number of other things to ensure 2016 is going to be so much better!
What are things like behind the scenes when the festival’s running? What’s the atmosphere and overall feeling like?
It’s very odd to be at the helm, normally we are at festivals enjoying the bands and forgetting we exist for the event. There is so much to consider all the time that it’s hard to stop and take stock of what’s actually happening because for example, while an amazing band is playing I may be otherwise engaged with a float tin making sure there is enough change in there or something silly like that. That said, the constant positive feedback from the customers about how much fun they are having certainly does a lot to boost the serotonin levels and is a great feeling.
And how long does it take you to actually recover from all the stress and effort involved?
I still have not had a day off from Mammothfest 2015 a month ago. We wrap up the books and get straight into planning 2016. We already have our headliners sorted along with the improvements I mentioned above, and our remaining 2015 is so chock-a-block I’m honestly not sure when I will next have a day off – but as they say, “find me a job that I love and I will never do a day’s work in my life”.
What’s the most rewarding part of the whole process?
Breaking even and knowing we can do it again next year especially after the worries that I could lose all my money and cause a trail of destruction.
What advice would you give to anyone else who’s thinking of following in your footsteps?
DO NOT DO IT… I’m serious, get a proper job, Tesco, Burger King, go home after your shift and have no responsibility. Drink a cocktail and relax… OR if after everything I have just said, you are still interested, then grow some balls, save a fuck ton of money, expect it to take years, be humble with the knock-backs, start small, think big but think realistic, don’t try to sell a dream event, sell a reality.
Have you received any particularly notable or weird rider requests from bands yet?
We had to supply 2 air guitar stands this year. Thankfully our sponsors at Blackstar guitar amps and cabs were able to accommodate.
I’ve seen that you’ve already locked down your headliners for all three days of next year’s event. How exactly did you manage that so quickly?
No fucking about. Having a network of people, talking lots, numerous hours of management discussions, many emails, chancing our arm and having an agenda that we do not veer from all help us to get things done quicker than ever before. It wasn’t always like this, I spent 6 months farming for a headliner in 2010, it was hell!
Any clues as to who they might be?
Yes…they are metal bands that have toured the world, are about to release new albums in 2016, and are incredible live. No we cannot say anything more right now — like our page, follow us and you will see!
What else do you have planned for 2016’s edition? Any major changes you’re thinking about implementing and/or anything you’ve learned from thus year that you want to put into practice?
Yes, lots of changes, improvements that will make the customer experience better all weekend. But that’s all I’m saying.
And, finally, anything you’d like to add or talk about – giving you (semi) free reign here – that you think our listeners/audience need to know?
We at Mammothfest are a small unit of highly passionate, driven, and determined metalheads that have united to develop a solid metal festival that will one day become one of the biggest outdoor metal events in the UK! A festival grown from the bottom up, with integrity, about the people for the people!
There are so many amazing bands all over the world that we don’t need to lean on the big 4 or shit like that, and instead we’re setting a trend with our unique line-ups, insanely good bands, and reasonable ticket prices. Plus it’s held in Brighton, the most colourful, accepting city on the planet. It doesn’t matter who you are, you are welcomed here.
So if anyone likes what they have read today, get your smart phone out (you posh bastards) and take a moment to LIKE our MAMMOTHFEST Facebook page, follow what we do and you never know, you may just be totally into our events and want to come check them out without financially crippling yourselves!