Bloodstock Director: "It is and always will be a metal festival"

Just a few weeks to go until Bloodstock Open Air with this year’s line-up featuring Megadeth, Down, Emperor, Carcass, Dimmu Borgir and a bunch of other bands you wouldn't want your grandmother to hear. We chat to Adam Gregory who together with his sisters Vicky and Rachael has the mammoth undertaking of running one of the UK's biggest metal festivals. Just don't expect to see Babymetal there any time soon.

How does Bloodstock fit in with the rest of the UK festival scene?

“We’re not trying to be Download and we’re not trying to be Sonisphere, those guys do a great job of what they do and we want to concentrate on doing a great job at what we do. Bloodstock is and always will be a metal festival, that’s exactly where it will remain. It’s family run at its core and even security are treated as part of the family. They’ve developed our ethos and they’ve stuck with our ethos which is that we’re non-aggressive and there’s zero tolerance on that. We want everyone to come and listen to great music, have a pint and enjoy themselves.”

After choosing to put Machine Head on the bill in 2012 some people accused you of ‘going commercial’. What do you make of that?

“We have to be conscious about the fact that metal is metal and Machine Head turned out to be the best band of the weekend. You’re never going to get everybody’s taste and we’ve got to try and cater for all; we’re not a doom metal festival, we’re not a black metal festival, we’re a metal festival and there are lots of genres within that so we’ve got to do a bit of something for everybody.”

Bloodstock is still considered a small festival. Do you have any plans to grow it?

“Like any form of business you look for growth, but as far as ambitions go, around about the 20,000 mark would do us. That would give us a nice sized amount with a good atmosphere and it would allow us to maintain the atmosphere we’ve currently got.”

How far in advance do you book the bands?

“We’ve already got some bands locked in for 2015! With booking bands it’s kind of a stab in the dark, there’s a lot of competition from other festivals and we’ve seen that in the recent few years bands are being booked up a good year to 17 months in advance. But we do try; we listen to the fans’ feedback every year which is important and wherever possible where there is a majority vote on a certain band we will have a go and see if we can get them.”

Bloodstock also seems to care about not serving pissy beer to its punters.

“We go to a lot of festivals ourselves and normally it’s one choice of beer, one choice of lager, one choice of cider, which is alright but it doesn’t really make for a good event. This year we’ve got 106 different ales and ciders. That’s just in the VIP bit but there are plans to have a look at the other bars over the next few years.”

Have you ever felt like nicking ideas off large scale metal fests like Hellfest and Wacken in order to grow in popularity?

“Bloodstock’s got its own identity and its own branding and we want to make it different to everywhere else you might go. Of course we try to adopt best practice wherever we can but overall we wouldn’t think of pinching someone else’s idea because the fans would know we’ve picked it from somewhere else. We’d rather think outside the box.”

You must be pretty busy during the festival.

“At Bloodstock we’re all flat out running round like headless chickens but we do try to catch a few bands wherever we can. But in reality I just love the fact that I’ve put the event on and to be part of something so fantastic and so memorable is something that’s etched in the annals of history.”

What’s been your most memorable moment?

“For me one of the most memorable moments was watching Twisted Sister on stage a few years ago. It was incredible to look out at the fans with that realisation that you are part of something so epic, that you’ve been able to bring these people together just to have a fantastic time. It’s that real back of the throat moment for me, words can’t explain it.”

It must be an amazing feeling.

“As long as the fans enjoy it, we enjoy it; hence why we did the live stream last year. 1.2 million people tuned into that stream during the four days. It’s mind-boggling to think that that many people have been looking at your event and that they might be potential future attendees.”

So many bands have been through Bloodstock’s doors. Do you get time to meet them?

“I’m spoiled and I’m fortunate enough that I’ve met the likes of Corey Taylor, Dee Snider, Biff from Saxon – all these people you grew up listening to thinking you’d never get close to them. I met Phil Anselmo at Download this year… what a character! Every one of these guys are legends within their own right and as promoters and festival organisers we become a bit blasé to the fact that we can stand and chat to them. I’ve been invited back to the dressing room but I feel like shouldn’t be there, it’s very surreal. And no, I can’t give you any gossip!”

Bands that play Bloodstock are traditionally on the old school end of the scale. What do you make of new bands like Babymetal?

“It’s gimmicky, it’s like Gangnam Style! For me personally it doesn’t work but then again they went and did a show after Sonisphere and sold it out so they’ve obviously got a fan following. I’m very old school, I like the guitar, I like to see the drums, I like to see the vocalist doing what they’re really good at and putting it all together. I don’t like auto-tune or miming, I like true grit proper metal.”

Down, Emperor, Megadeth… it’s a sweet line up this year. Who are you hoping to catch?

“I want to catch a bit of Down if I get the chance. I’m also a big fan of Amon Amarth, Saxon and Hellyeah. And I’m going to spend a bit of time in the unsigned New Blood stage. Emperor is a bit of a coup for us because they’re only doing a few shows in Europe so I’m chuffed to bits that we’ve got them. And another one that I can’t wait to watch is Hatebreed, I watched them last time they were fantastic.”

Bloodstock takes place 7-10th August at Catton Hall, Derbyshire. Get your tickets here.

Holly Wright

With over 10 years’ experience writing for Metal Hammer and Prog, Holly has reviewed and interviewed a wealth of progressively-inclined noise mongers from around the world. A fearless voyager to the far sides of metal Holly loves nothing more than to check out London’s gig scene, from power to folk and a lot in between. When she’s not rocking out Holly enjoys being a mum to her daughter Violet and working as a high-flying marketer in the Big Smoke.