"Why support Bloodstock? Well the festival itself is based on the mantra of “by the fans for the fans” so why wouldn’t you?"
With Bloodstock Open Air 2016 only four months away, GMA decided it was time to find out what runs in the veins of the personnel behind the scenes. With bands being announced over the last 5-6 months like rapid-fire, it's only a matter of time before the whole festival is locked in with the M2TM winners potentially being the last to be locked in. This year M2TM has venues not only across the UK, but over in Norway and Poland. It seems that every year Bloodstock successfully knocks on the door of a countries metal scene and receives a warm welcome as a result.
One individual who not only pulls the strings of the whole Metal 2 The Masses (M2TM) venture, nor just plays in a brutally savage metal band by the name of Beholder, but without any argument has helped foster numerous careers of up-and-coming bands and help them flourish into what could be considered 'coming-of-age' bands. Such bands include The Furious Horde (who went on to play Metalcamp) and Evile (who signed onto Earache Records), other bands include (but not limited to): Bloodshot Dawn, Eibon La Furies, Splintered Soul, The Infernal Sea, Skreamer, etc.
Whilst heading the New Blood Stage (of which M2TM winners feed into), Simon also looks after the Sophie Lancaster Stage (named after a goth of the same name who was murdered nearly 10 years ago in Lancashire) and has in the past (and future) booked some of the world's most exciting and emerging metal talents. Referring back to the New Blood Stage, M2TM has visited (those in italic are being visited this year) England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Romania, Norway, Ireland, Croatia, Cyprus, Latvia, The Channel Islands, Poland and India (although we're not sure what happened there).
But like most things, everything has a beginning and a story to tell, Simon's story is one of respected work ethic and dedication to the metal scene. Not only in 2007 did his band Beholder play the what-was-then known as the "Lava" stage, but also simultaneously started feeding his input into the festival. Even though it seems that the Gregory family (proprietors) knew about what Simon does, his worth ethic in and around the time of Beholders performance meant that Simon was asked post-performance if he "could supply PA/Lights etc., for the following year", thereby clearly thinking ahead for the future and what Simon could offer, safe to say they made the right choice with Simon adding that "not long after that, I got to have a full sit down with Paul to put the pieces into place for the M2TM. I guess form that point on I’ve been heading that and building it year on year." As indicated earlier, Simon has placed his finger on 11 countries, with one island group and country (which didn't seem to happen) making up the 13 different areas.
Some might think this is process is slow and that it should pick up the pace, but like most things if it's rushed it could easily crumble, some then might argue Simon is prudent, perhaps he is, but he has straightforward logic supporting that decision:-
"To be honest I’ve took the approach that if we build the M2TM slowly and with focus of purpose, i.e. not developing too quickly and taking our eye off the ball, then the platform can continue to build slowly year on year. The fact is the M2TM has become something more than simply a competition and has done a great deal to help strengthen the bond in the underground scene, again in part down to its honest nature and the fact it won't welcome P2P, text voting etc., and encourages judging for musicality / performance against any “battle of the fans” scenario."
Like cheese, you need to let it mature in order to get the full-bodied flavour, otherwise the pasteurising process if disturbed, can leave a rotten mess. Naturally if cheese was entered into a country fair where awards are won for the best to the fourth or so best tasting cheese, then of course those who won will be ecstatic and those who lost will be heartbroken. The same goes for bands who enter the M2TM, though some who have not won the finals might be awarded another slot at BOA if it allows. Of course telling someone you have won or lost is never easy, especially when you have that band's fellow musicians in their respective scenes present. Even for Simon, who is a charismatic person to know and watch perform at BOA with Beholder, he admits he can feel the anxiety, terror, happiness and sadness wrap up inside of him and as he explains, it's not always plain-sailing :-
"Honestly it’s terrifying and at times can hurt like hell. Why? Cos I care and being a musician myself I can only empathize with bands that don’t make it that year, or on the flip-side, I can celebrate when I see what it means to the winning bands. But my first port of call is always to the bands that don’t make Bloodstock at this time of trying and I’m quick to ensure them that they have been noticed, that with hard work they will eventually get to where they want to be and definitely not let this be a reason to stop striving – in fact the exact opposite."
Of course playing Bloodstock and indeed the M2TM means you're going to be noticed, but with more and more bands being noticed, invited to play BOA and leave with memories, is there just enough room to allow for the festival to expand indefinitely? Having grown organically from an indoors to an outdoors festival, it would seem that the best is yet to come as each edition passes. Yet Simon hopes to some extent that BOA does not leave Catton Hall as in his words "it feels like a home away from home", after adding that he is:-
"Certainly not worried as the emphasis again is on slow organic growth and keeping the core identity and unique selling point of the festival, which is the community atmosphere. From my perspective I think if we were to chase huge corporate sponsorship in order to build a bigger festival, it would come at a cost and wouldn’t necessarily sit with our core demographic. That said I’m not aware of a definitive set figure on where the festival would reach it’s peak.. I guess only time will tell on that one and whether Catton Hall will remain the home of BOA".
Speaking of home from home, BOA prides itself in bringing metal bands to the grounds from all over the world, so far the countries that have been tapped include (but not limited to): Brazil, Costa Rica, Italy, Greece, Egypt, Israel, Taiwan, India and Australia. So what does the future hold? Well surely with the growth of the festival, more and more international acts will be invited. Of course Africa has only seen one band in the form of Egyptian Death Metal horde Scarab perform at BOA. Africa may be the last frontier for metal music emergence, this however has not deterred Simon from expanding invitations far and wide, and not just to Africa either. Fans will just have to wait and see who is coming to Catton Hall this year as he explains:-
"Still yet to announce (who is coming), but this year we have bands from Austria, Tunisia and beyond and it’s part of the plan to bring otherwise unknown bands to the UK that have huge support in their respective countries. When you consider we’re the first and only festival to bring over acts such as Jasad (Indonesia), Orphaned Land (Israel), Scarab (Egypt), Burgerkill (Indonesia), Ne Obliviscaris (Australia) & Demonic Resurrection (India) – to name but a few ….. then it’s something we’re hugely proud of. "
Global Metal Apocalypse prides itself in giving bands from all over the world attention and to hear this news makes us smile. But let's see who else from the further regions of planet metal have graced BOA with their wonderful music (without repeating countries):- Breed 77 (Gibraltar), Sight of Emptiness (Costa Rica), Týr (Faroe Islands), ChthoniC (Taiwan), Infernal Tenebra (Croatia), Brezno (Slovenia), Krepuskul (Romania), Obsidian Kingdom (Spain), Dead Label (Ireland) and Scarred (Luxembourg) among others.
So what about the future of metal festivals? The outlook seems to be positive, so why should fans support Bloodstock? (Aside from supporting bands making history by being firsts to play in the UK / a major UK festival)? Simon has this to say:-
"For me at least the future is strong so long as you can stay true to the core focus of the festival yet be aware of the rapidly changing landscape of musical tastes and music delivery. Since I first stepped out on a M2TM tour I’ve seen numerous sea changes in the flavours of the underground – at first it was breakdowns and Djent styles, swiftly followed by more traditional melodic bands and certainly now the emphasis is on stripped down Stoner / Doom acts – so being aware of this and not being blinkered to what’s actually selling is essential. But like I say, so long as you blend this with those acts that are box office favourites with the core audience then the future should be fine. As for why support Bloodstock? Well the festival itself is based on the mantra of “by the fans for the fans” so why wouldn’t you?"
No doubt about it, Simon knows what he is on about as anyone who has been to Bloodstock would testify that the atmosphere is one with the fans, those who make the annual pilgrimage to the leader of British Metal festivals. For those who have never been, don't panic, it's a friendly and family-orientated festival that has garnered a rather special following since it's inception over a decade ago. It certainly feels that BOA is a huge family gathering, one that invites all brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers and those in between to four days of metal music, drinking and unforgettable moments (bin jousting anyone?), but more importantly spending time with like-minded people. This is probably where Bloodstock trumps Download time and time again:-
"The aesthetics are definitely a prime focus for Bloodstock, although Download is a completely different festival and in their defence I’ve seen plenty of families over the years, but they are a much bigger entity I guess. But yep we certainly focus on things such as smaller stages, real ales, non musical entertainment alongside such necessities as seating, quiet camping etc etc. The fact is for many Bloodstock is the one time of the year when they get chance to meet like-minded people and celebrate metal.. so we want to make sure that this is done in relative comfort and make it a festival experience they’ll take away with them."
But could festivals be secretly upstaging local shows? The question is, 'is there a slight buckle in the trend whereby fans tend to go to festivals more than they do gigs? What could Simon tell us from your experiences?' Simon certainly has been watching and paying close attention to the trend, the trend of local shows becoming more and more appreciated to a certain extent, in short festivals aren't outdoing local shows but instead indirectly influencing them - prime example? Metal 2 The Masses:-
"If honest this has been the case in recent years, but I do see a slow, gradual change away from the more sedentary and apathetic music fans. I think much of the change has been due to events and promoters doing more to drag people out and make them feel part of the event and in turn making them want to support live music. For years the Xbox and the TV has been responsible, along with things such as the recession, smoking bans, licensing laws, noise abatement etc, for culling numbers…. But these things are now no longer relevant and numbers are starting to build again. Again I would hold the hand up and say that the M2TM is in some part responsible for bucking the trend and I’ve often used the events to speak openly and encourage people to do the same."
It's essential that metal music fans support their local scene as much as possible by attending shows, supporting the performing bands from the start to the end of every single gig. Not heckling a band, showing some respect, not leaving just because your mates bands have played (unless of course you have to e.g. transport, not because you are apparently an arrogant individual). How did bands like Lamb of God, Children of Bodom, Cradle of Filth all start out? As local bands, they gained support and are now arguably beacons of light in their respective metal scenes and act as idols for young bands to aspire to. Speaking of young bands, those destined to rock their socks off at BOA for their first time (both NS and SL stages), Simon has this to say (and remember it always):-
"Enjoy it! Make as many friends and contacts as possible and don’t go into the press tent drunk... ever!"
Regarding a documentary about Bloodstocks rise to acclaim, Simon acknowledged that he believes that "there was something in the pipeline but unsure as yet", logically it would seem just for them to make one due to their long-standing history but also look at Wacken Open Air, they did one for their 25th anniversary. As Bloodstock prepares to celebrate another year of metal once again, Simon leaves us with this sentimental thanking statement:-
"Quite simply although I work with a great team, both in the inner circle and throughout the extended crew, it’s the fans that make this all happen so all I can say on behalf of Bloodstock is thank you so much and keep supporting the most pure and honest"
Bloodstock takes place at Catton Hall in Derbyshire from the 11th-14th August and promises to be an absolute blast. With Thrash legends Slay headlining the Saturday, 'Whale Metal' horde Mastodon headlining Friday and the festival closing with a bid-farewell performance from Twisted Sister on the Sunday, this is an edition you would not want to miss.
With the M2TM finals approaching very fast, more bands due to announce, and of course the preparations for hopefully a breezy, warm summer ahead, the next batch of websites you should visit on your next daily internet browsing are listed below (tickets available on site, Rock Soc completely sold out, follow updates as they happen via their FB page):-