Steve Dickson is a revered Brighton based promoter known more for his desire and commitment to putting on one of the most diverse and ground breaking festivals in the UK each year – Mammothfest. His story is one of sheer drive, unbridled passion and a determination for wanting to service the scene and provide an honest platform for bands and artists to reach the right audience and industry. He also happens to run an agency, works for Terrorizer Magazine and manages a few bands. Quite the inspiration and one hell of an interesting guy. Steve gave us some of his precious time to talk about his world, his mission statement and the very exciting things happening in the not so distant future….
You’ve organised, booked, promoted and hosted Mammothfest for the past seven years. What have some of the major challenges been and how have you overcome them?
Bringing Mammothfest back after 2010 to be honest! Our first event was set up lovely, I mean we had Entombed, Orange Goblin, Mnemic, Sybreed, Sylosis and so many amazing bands I genuinely thought we were going to sell out. Then OZZFEST announced they would be holding a Metal show in London on the same day with Ozzy, Korn, Steel Panther and more and my events sales dive bombed which crippled me financially. The event went ahead, over 500 people had a great time but losing money meant I had to take 2 years out to pay back the £20,000 to investors and create my own new pot of money. I did so and took the time to seriously consider if I would ever even consider doing another show as the impact of 2010 nearly killed me, it was THAT bad. However, in coming to terms with the losses and having studied in great depth the errors I considered I would be a fool to not do another event with all the valuable knowledge and experience I had gained. Entrepreneurs often lose money at the start, it’s the picking up of one’s self that really counts and so I did, but this time it was a smaller event and ever since we have been growing organically; realistically and very rewardingly. At the end of the day it comes down to back bone and with the passing of my best friend Rik I came to realise when I am dead there are no choices. Even if it went wrong again surely it was better to have tried – but to avoid failing militantly by doing everything I/we can.
What’s the story behind how Mammothfest was born in 2009? Whose baby is it and how did the idea/ vision come about?
Mammothfest was an idea I had for 2 years prior to 2009 but it took me that long to even pluck up the courage to tell anyone I was going to try and build a metal festival. I would go for drinks with my best friend Rik Mosquero (ex-singer of Hole In The Sky whom very sadly passed away to brain cancer in 2013, RIP brother) and we would discuss this idea of a metal festival in Brighton. We talked about it so much we created much of the plan in our heads and then I decided to take matters literally and make it happen. It is in memory of Rik that we have the Rikstock emerging artist stage to host rising bands that will one day become our headliners of the future. Thankfully the response has been welcomed and the support has been overwhelming so we still exist and more importantly we continue to grow at a very strong but steady rate.
How are team members directly involved the organising and running on Mammothfest? I get the impression it’s a close group of you.
I have over 25 of the best people in the world working with me under Mammothfest. They are all so important to the brand and our success and I cannot emphasise this enough. Irrespective of whether they are directing the business, flyering, involved in production or any other aspects, doing things right and effectively is the key. No one gets paid, we reinvest every penny and I am still owed thousands but I do not care. I am alive and am comfortable. WE ALL understand the importance of ensuring we can plough as much money in to future shows as possible as our growth shows that in the next 5 years we can be a £1M company, we are on track and we will not falter. Then we all get paid. The team have ideas so we implement them wherever we can. We up skill the team whenever possible in other areas and they very much take their own control of different parts of the business because there is a real trust there. The team trust me to deliver on my promises to the brand and them and I trust them to nail their jobs so we achieve our goals one step at a time. This is an incredibly rewarding brand to work within. Not only that we all get so much out of hosting the bands we love and pride ourselves in doing things professionally and we have a bloody great time together. It is this harmony and collective passion for metal that unites us in our quest. We are Mammothfest, all 25 of us.
Last year’s Mammothfest was certainly a real highlight of the year for me! You must have been all kinds of busy! Run us through the weekend through the eyes of Steve Dickson….
I am often told I am a hyper maniac and I cannot deny I seem to operate best under higher pressure exciting environments so while to many, Mammothfest may seem like a hectic project to manage its actually not at all for me, especially when I have such an amazing team. We plan well in advance, to the hour. “Militant Bob” our production director is absolutely on point every year with arriving at the venues on time with all the equipment we need. Our team are there on time and they all know their jobs to ensure our events are tight.
To give you an example though, so I am at the Haunt ready to welcome Textures and Heart Of A Coward (HOAC) to the venue along with the supports only to get a call from HOAC agent advising their van has broken down and that they may not be able to make our show, or Euroblast for that matter. I put in place a contingency plan should they not turn up, the team know plan A & B in case and we carry on as normal. What else can we do? Getting upset is not the answer even though we were disappointed. At the end of the day running a metal festival is a first world problem. It is a luxury product/lifestyle so it’s really not worth getting worked up over.
The rest of the weekend is pretty much the same, everything runs tight, the accommodation matters are fine so our customers are happy, I talk to as many customers as I can and get a feel for how the weekend is going and take time to enjoy it as much as I can. Yes my head goes through the proverbial mill in making sure the team are OK, the customers are enjoying themselves, bands are well catered for and all the other aspects are going well but it’s not so bad when the team are so on point so I again turn this back to them and the absolute respect I have for every single one of them.
There has been a real diversity of Heavy Metal sub-genres perform at Mammothfest, how do you select what bands deserve to play and how to you ensure there’s a little bit of everything for everyone?
Mammothfests mission statement is to “bring the biggest bands in the world to Brighton while providing as many opportunities as possible for emerging artists”. So this allows us to go in any direction we want. Some metal genres go through bad phases so we go with the times but other than that there is no further agenda. We pride ourselves on booking THE BEST bands we can. So even if our customers have not heard of them they still know they are going to have the best weekend with such high quality music. Trusting our brand is the key, people do and every year I get people tell me they never heard of the last band but they were amazing. This is where it is at for us as I know what it is like to be in a band that works tirelessly for growth and success. We have record labels come to Mammothfest to check out emerging bands, after all there is no better place to guarantee a weekend of quality new music than at our shows and so combine it all together and you get a very cost friendly incredible line up of bands in an honest, family vibe friendly festival that puts the bigger festivals to shame.
You’ve had a real selection of stellar Heavy Metal bands perform including Savage Messiah, Onslaught and Venom Inc. If you could pick 3 dream band to headline a 3 day Mammothfest weekend, who would you pick and why?
Personally, Metallica / Meshuggah / Dying Fetus. Why? Well if we as a festival ever reach a point in our careers where we can afford Metallica then we will have literally made our dreams come true. Not only from a financial perspective but because quite honestly Metallica were one of the first bands to blow my nuts off and even if they have taken a rough path over the past 10 years or so they still remain to me THE band to book. Meshuggah simply because they are the pinnacle of what Metal means to me, tight, machine like, clinical, precise, clever boundary pushing music with a level of professionalism and consistency second to no other band. Dying Fetus simply because ‘Reign Supreme’ will always be one of the best albums I will ever hear. It is technically insane, almost comical in places, they are not afraid to take the piss while leaving your jaw in your lap throughout the whole album. But I must give additional mention to Megadeth, Pink Floyd (omg that would be a dream come true), Korn, Gojira, Marilyn Manson, Aborted, Cattle Decapitation, Yob, 40 Watt sun and so many other artists that inspire so many.
Outside of Mammothfest you also manage Hell Puppets and Bleed Again, how do you balance between the roles and what challenges and rewards have come from managing these two bands?
Both bands are exceptionally professional so little mothering is required; unlike with some bands I have had the pleasure of managing. Their music is amazing and live they bring it every time so it is a complete honour to work with both bands. They share my attitude towards high aspirations and we set targets to reach our stepping stone goals and like Mammothfest, it is very rewarding. Bleed Again will be signed to a label (by time this is published) with their new album ‘Momentum’ aptly titled because they are flying at the moment. Hell Puppets are back in the studio in the next few months recording album 2 which is already sounding massive; by the time this is printed you may have heard some of their new material! I do not really think there are any challenges with managing them, I can handle all they need and we have so much fun that I could not imagine not working with either of them. Incidentally if you are reading this I highly recommend you go to their FB pages, check them out and LIKE them both to follow them, you will not be disappointed!
If that’s not enough, you also work for Blastfest and Terrorizer Magazine, can you give us an insight into what this entails and what you undertake within your role working for these?
Yes I have the pleasure of putting together the covermount CD for Terrorizer every month and help with other matters too. Blastfest is a new acquisition and I guess you could say I was head hunted (for the first time ever!) to assist with putting together their 2017 festival program. Not only that though, I work with BIMM the music college in Brighton to help their metal heads in various ways from learning how we work as a festival, how magazines work and so much more. I also run the Origin Agency where I manage my bands and book tours etc so there is always plenty to do! This way though I meet so many more people and it’s these connections that often prove invaluable in various times of need.
You and I have discussed privately potential acts you had pencilled in for Mammothfest 2017, are you able to shed any light publically on who you’ve got in the pipeline?
Yes I can confirm exclusively to you first that Rotting Christ will be performing at Mammothfest 2017 in what will be their only UK performance this year. So if you missed them on their recent world tour or want to see them again you need to come to Mammothfest! As for other acts, I may or not have mentioned some already but I really could not say anything more at this time.
Do you have any teasers you can give us in relation to what we can expect from Mammothfest 2017?
We are bringing our whole weekend in to one venue right on the sea front by the beach for 2017 right in the heart of Brighton’s city centre. We are exploring some comedy and other “outside the Metal box” entertainment and more but I am not at liberty to give away anything more right this second. I urge everyone to LIKE our Mammothfest page to follow our announcements!
I’ve got to ask, where did the name for the festival come from and who came up with it?
I came up with it back in 2008 as I always had this vision of a massive outdoor festival, which we are on track to deliver in 2021. So if anyone wants to see this become a reality then support what we do and help make this happen!
As a 3 day Metal festival in Brighton, what venues have you picked in the past and why? What process do you go through whilst choosing a suitable home for a Metal event like Mammothfest?
To date we had to use venues we could afford in terms of the budgets we set ourselves. This meant on occasion having a few smaller venues running at the same time with genre specific line ups ensuring customers are happy knowing where they want to be. This was not without flaws though so we look forward to utilising some of the bigger venues in Brighton as we grow. This includes a 600 cap venue we will use for the whole of 2017. It has 2 live rooms so we can have our main stage and ensure we continue to support emerging artists. This will improve the customer experience especially when they come to see that it is right on the beach.
I’ve got to mention, you’re also a member of Extreme Technical Metal band Meta-Stasis who headlined Devolution Magazine’s The Alt Collective event in Reading this year, for those who didn’t make it to the event, what can one expect from a Meta-Stasis live show and how do you juggle being in a successful Metal band and organising Mammothfest?
The songs we write are from the heart. We express our anger, hurt and frustrations in there so there have been times when we play certain tracks on stage like at Bloodstock when I had tears down my eyes (not that anyone could see behind my mask) because I cannot help but reflect on the hurt I have experienced in the past, which comes flooding back during the songs we play. This is very emotive for me and extremely important to my own mental health. I mean I can put a mask on and be whatever I feel at that time. I can express myself in ways I would never normally and I never quite know how I will feel during some performances. I let out my pain and spend the rest of the evening floating around like I am on some post ejaculation high. Everyone needs some extreme music in their lives and I for one want to be at the boundary edge writing shit no one has heard before. Juggling is no different to how people juggle their own lives I guess, or am I quite an odd ball for taking on so much? Ha-ha
Last of all, do you have a message for all the Devolution Readers?
Keep reading Devolution and supporting the hard working crew behind this amazing magazine! Thank you to anyone who has taken the time to read this, it means the world to us all and hope to meet you at a gig soon somewhere so do come say hello!