Interview: Steve Dickson – MammothFest

Mammothfest 2014

Mammothfest 2014

MammothFest, Brighton’s own metal festival returns after it’s four year break which was highly anticipated following the first one in 2010, which featured established acts such as Entombed headlining and support from Sylosis, Orange Goblin and more. There is a lot of excitement and eagerness today at the return of the festival and mid way through the second day of the event, Carina (C) catches up with the mighty organiser of the event, Steve Dickson (S)

(C) So Steve how is it to be back after a four year break from Mammothfest?

(S) It’s the best thing in the world to be back, it’s always been my dream since like 2007 when I first conjured up the idea of doing Mammothfest..basically 2010 was all about establishing a metal festival in Brighton, and due to a number of factors it didn’t quite go to plan, which was really frustrating, I took some time out to kind of study where I went wrong, what I can do to make it better, and this is where we are right now, it’s 2014 I’m taking things down a level, getting the formula right and holding an event that basically both encompasses the biggest bands we can afford right now coming down to Brighton, whilst at the same time supporting the underground metal scene that we have across the UK, so you got bands from all over the UK coming down to play, so it’s wonderful and today is a testament to that.

(C) How crucial do you think the event is today for Brighton, and are you hoping to put it on the map for the festival?

(S) That’s a good question. I feel a an air of responsibility towards that because when we did 2010 there was a real excitement leading up to it, and then once the event was over and I realised I had lost some money, which is no secret to anyone anymore, and I wouldn’t be able to do it for a little while, there seemed to be a slight lull of momentum or excitement in the scene down here. A couple of venues have closed which has got obviously nothing to do with me but nevertheless all these things add to an energy, an attitude that kind of sends out the message maybe there isn’t much of a scene which is rubbish, there are a hell of a lot of people here that are very keen to do what they are doing right now, but sometimes things don’t quite go the way we want. So coming back with 2014 has not only injected a new energy into this city, in terms of Mammothfest, it’s done the same thing for the bands, it’s brought a lot of business into this Brighton this weekend with the merch stalls, and the bands selling merch… again coming from all over the country, so there’s a real positive energy in that respect, and it’s kind of set the tone as well for the future because what we have said is Mammothfest is, “Alright, we have made some mistakes, fair enough, but we’re back now, we learned from our mistakes, we know what we got to do and we’ve delivered, and this is just the start of where we are going to go in the near future”.

MammothFest 2014

MammothFest 2014

(C) Following on from that, what would you say have been the biggest challenges, and what have you learned from last time?

(S) The biggest challenge probably was taking on board the lessons from 2010 and actually putting in place a new business plan that ensured success, longevity, financial security and so on. It’s all well and good saying I’m going to put a event and that’s a lovely idea, but there’s a massive reality behind that, in terms of getting the bands in, affording it all and everything else…  I think we got it right this year and I think that’s proven by the fact that we have a sell out crowd here, the last two days, I mean it’s absolutely rammed in there right now, and we have come out in profit at a time when, and I say this with love to other festivals, there are some that have collapsed this year, without mentioning names and that’s a really sad fact of the UK at the moment, it’s a difficult market to go into, so to be able to come out of it in a situation where we have got not just an event that happened, it happened with profit, with security and essentially enough to be able to build on next year without getting into some of the ruts that other festivals maybe have, so it’s a wonderful position to be in right now, I’m very happy.

(C) How happy have you been with the response and the reception so far?

(S) I’m overwhelmed, to be honest with you, we had about a hundred and fourty t-shirts that we have made up for this weekend, fourty limited editions with the line-up on the back, say no more, most of them sold… I think we’ve got two left, and of the other t-shirts that we have we are looking at maybe thirty left out of a hundred, and what’s happening there is people are wearing their belief on them:  “I believe in this, I’m going to buy a t-shirt!”.  I’m going to show you, not as in me but also my team that are behind this idea and it’s saying to everybody, we are behind it too, so to be in a situation where we not only sold out pretty much twice now over two days, to have all the merch sold.  To have so many people wearing the merch with pride really says to me that there is an underground scene, a loyalty to Mammothfest, which was there in 2010, which has really been established right now, which will see us very positively to the future.

MammothFest 2014

MammothFest 2014

(C) How was it to support Savage Messiah yesterday with your band (Meta-stasis)?

(S) It was an honour. I mean I’ve listened to that album for, well since it came out, I’m a massive fan of them anyway, I’m a big fan of some of their earlier videos before they released any albums as well, I just think they’re great. Joff yesterday bless him, did the ice bucket challenge and it wasn’t just a bucket of ice, it was like a bin of ice , he has his own personal reasons to do what he did and I send out my love to him for that. They are loved by so many and they’re a massive reason why yesterday was a sell out and they are obviously going on tour in the near future, in like October they’re going on a European tour as well, so a lot of stuff going on for them, so to be able to bring them into Brighton and satisfy a lot of Brighton people.  A year ago I put out a message who do you want to see and again and again Savage Messiah came up, so there is was, the people came and people delivered, and between us all we have kind of worked together to make a financially stable music event that gives them what they want, whilst enabling me to grow a little bit to build on that, so it’s wonderful!  They are a wonderful band.

(C) What would you say have been the biggest highlights over the weekend so far?

(S) I would say personally from a business perspective, breaking even at four O’Clock yesterday afternoon and then seeing a continuing flood of support that has empowered Mammothfest to be in a position next year where we can expand with bigger bands..that for me, having gone through 2010 is definitely one of the highlights for a business perspective, but let’s forget about that, we are here to do music and listen to bands and to celebrate the incredible talent that we have across the UK, so in terms of bands, I mean I have got to say that Cambion, one of my personal favourites, so impressed by what they did last night..I was completely impressed by King Leviathan this morning, they opened the stage and for a band that’s only been around for five months they set the bar as if they have been playing three or four years now.

MammothFest 2014

MammothFest 2014

Deal Was For The Diamond a moment ago, just played, no vocalist, don’t need a vocalist, why would they, what they do is so incredibly powerful, progressive and intelligent, they had the whole crowd stood there just in awe, also as well people like Tom and Ash, acoustic guys I guess similar to Gabriela and Rodrigo that kind of vibe going.  Whilst Mammothfest is a metal festival, it’s diverse enough to be able to celebrate the talented musicians respective of how intense that music is, and Tom and Ash are a testament to that.  I have no doubt whatsoever that Sean De Burca will later will absolutely destroy the stage as well, with one acoustic guitar, and I think that that sort of thing sets again a kind of precedent for what Mammothfest is all about; its about quality music, it doesn’t matter what it is you’re doing, if it’s really good then we’re going to welcome that on stage and we’re going to let people know that this is what has happened this year.

In terms of the more heavy stuff, Meta-stasis destroyed it last night, I’m really looking forward to Ingested, a personal favourite of mine, they are a band that are ridiculous, we supported them a year, they are going to be fabulous.  Martyr Defiled as well, touring Europe, so many videos, so much merch, so many albums now under their belt, fantastic bands basically, so we just just had No Sin Evades His Gaze as well, those guys played Bloodstock recently, Abhorrent Decimation played Bloodstock – the standard is really high, they’re not signed yet, but it’s only a matter of time before they do, and that’s what Mammothfest is about, is recognising the high quality of talent there is around the UK and saying what we are going to give you everything we can.

So that’s where we’re at. It’s quite an organic process, it’s not like growing tomatoes where you feed it and a tomato will come up eventually, it’s like okay so we take a step forward, what’s going to happen there.  You reach out to bands and agents and so on, some say yes, some don’t even respond.  I don’t think they quite get what we are trying to do down here is enhance the music scene in Brighton, for the bands out there as well as the bands here. So I’m hoping that agents, labels will start to take notice of Mammothfest and say actually they mean business, they can deliver, as we have twice now, and if we do approach a band and say we want to book them to do whatever down here, we mean business.  It’s going to be good for the scene, good for the bands, good for everybody else, so that’s the really important thing for us.

(C) So what can we expect from Mammothfest 2015?

(S) 2015? I’m talking to a headliner right now…  I have got to be careful what I say… it’s really boring because people go on.  I can’t talk too much about it, I hate that, but the bottom line is I can’t say anything right now, because if I don’t confirm them I’m going to look like an idiot, but if I get them, then it’s likely that they will be over in October next year, so we are going to postpone Mammothfest a little bit later, we don’t want to compete with a major festivals, because there is just no point, we can’t compete with that, and also we’re indoor so why do we need do it in the middle of summer? 

But also doing it later on in the year, it means that bigger bands that are looking to tour can actually get involved maybe as part of their tour, come and play Mammothfest as part of that, so it’s better for us financially and good for the bands.  So we are in a situation where that deal is essentially happening right now, I’m hoping to hear probably by the end of September, early October at the latest, and if I can secure the band then I will be announcing it like that, because I know that that will get people’s attention and again establish that Mammothfest means business. This is what we have got at the top and a hell of a lot of underground bands underneath, and again, we will go on a Mammothfest warm up tour next year, so we are going to do thirty days across the UK, where I will personally go and I will look at all the bands and choose one from each place and come and play in Brighton, so yeah It’s a UK wide thing that basically saying you underground bands, you’re not being ignored anymore, there is attention upon you and we are going to offer opportunities, we are going to ram venues like this, we are going to give them the chance to sell merch and get extra PR out of it and essentially give them a leg up so that when they hit other festivals they can say, we play Mammothfest, we’ve done this, we’ve done that, and that’s where it’s at really, is networking, everyone’s like ‘yeah we are a great band but we don’t know how to go about where we want to go’, and all the rest of it, that’s because everyone’s going ‘alright mate, alright mate, how’s it going?’ and its networking, so it’s all bullshit quite frankly and what we are about is basically standing up and saying we know what it’s about , we can help you do this, we can help you do that, people are calling in favours for us, that’s how the industry works, rather than hiding that, we are actually making that somewhere that is really up there in the air, and that’s kind of the ethos, breaking down boundaries wherever we can and offering opportunities for new bands.

Steve Dickenson MammothFest

Steve Dickenson MammothFest

(C) Is there anything else you would like to add?

(S) Not really, other than Mammothfest is here..simple as!



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