We Interviewed The Man Behind Canada's Biggest Metal Festival

Heavy Montreal

This year, Canada’s premier rock and metal festival, Heavy Montréal, will be returning for its eighth year, packing in a blistering lineup that includes Nightwish, Disturbed, Five Finger Death Punch, Mastodon, Volbeat, Killswitch Engage and many more - not to mention the 40,000-odd fans that’ll be packing into the festival’s new home at the city’s beautiful Parc-Jean Drapeau.

With the festival looking to open its doors to bring more punters from around the world into its unique surroundings, we sat down with Head Booker Daniel Glick to find out why Montreal is vying to be the new home of heavy music - and exactly how an independent festival from East Canada managed to become one of the biggest music events in the world.

Hi Daniel. So how did Heavy Montréal first come about?

“We’d always wanted to do a hard rock and heavy metal festival in Montreal. Rock has always been really true to the roots of Quebec here, and rock shows have done extremely well in Montreal, so we thought this would be a perfect fit for our city.”

Heavy Montréal preludes the recent North American festival boom by a good few years. Were there any initial obstacles when you started trying to put it together?

“From a business point of view, it’s always difficult to launch a new event; the risks are high, for sure. Getting bands here in the first year was tougher than it is now. Now it’s in their radar of things they want to do each summer, so we’re pretty fortunate to have that. The other challenge was the education of fans in this market, and getting fans from around North America and Europe to want to come over. We still do all sorts of programmes and marketing campaigns to get people from surrounding areas to come - and the bands definitely play a part in that. Nightwish, for example - they’re not playing many shows this summer, and they’re here and they have a lot of hardcore fans. We’ve had a lot of people from Europe - Germany especially - that now come over here.”

The festival market is flooded on your side of the pond now - has it been difficult with so many rivals popping up?

“For sure, but I wouldn’t call them ‘rivals’. If the festival market is healthy, I think it’s a good thing for everyone. Sometimes it helps that bands are routed around two or three festivals within a month - it keeps them in North America. It’s helping us get bands we want.”

Montreal itself is also a hell of a place to have a festival - how much do you think the city has played a part in people wanting to make the trip over?

“It’s extremely unique. Our official language is French, and there’s something really special about the city. We see it with the other festivals; people just wanna come and hang out here for a few days! The other special thing about the festival itself is the site - it’s on an island, you can get there via the subway, it takes about 15 minutes, and it’s really accessible. We also have our own accommodations, to give fans an affordable alternative to some of the big, expensive hotels in the city. We have people come from all over, and we can give them something way cheaper than a big hotel.”

Who are you excited about playing this year?

“I’m really excited for Nightwish; they’ve played Montreal a bunch of times, but now they’re coming with their full European production, which North America isn’t privy to all the time. It’s extremely impressive. Disturbed and Five Finger Death Punch have played a few times as well, but they’re on top of the bill this year, and we couldn’t pick a better year to have them. They’re having a massive year, so we’re excited about that. Also, I love Mastodon and Volbeat - Mastodon had to cancel last year, so they’re back.”

This year’s lineup feels like a very modern bill…

“Absolutely. We love the older fans, but we like them at all ages! We look at what’s going on, and we like to see the next generation step up a little bit.”

Also, we have to ask - what the fuck is Heavy Mania Wrestling?

“Ha ha! That’s something we started about three years ago. We put a wrestling ring up on site, and throughout the day there’s all kinds of crazy matches. It’s specific to our festival - some of the characters appear in various companies, but they write a whole story just for Heavy Montreal. It’s pretty unique to what we do - when you want a break from the music, you can go there, hang out and have a beer!”

HEAVY MONTREAL TAKES PLACE THIS WEEKEND AT THE PARC JEAN-DRAPEAU IN MONTREAL, QUEBEC, CANADA. KEEP AN EYE ON METAL HAMMER’S TWITTER AND INSTAGRAM FOR COVERAGE ACROSS THE WEEKEND, AND HEAD TO WWW.HEAVYMONTREAL.COM FOR MORE INFO ON THE FESTIVAL