Room Thirteen covered the first Prog Power UK in 2006
Coverage here,and will be returning to Cheltenham at the end of March for PPUK 2.
Here organizer Jon Hoare tells us how the build up is going, gives his thoughts on the UK Prog Metal Scene, what the future holds for his event as well as a word of advice for those thinking in following their lead and organizing a small festival.
R13: How is the build up to the event going, how are ticket sales?
J: It's been really good so far. No major disasters as yet - but there's still time! You have to just firefight some things as they occur. Ticket sales are already past the total we had for year one, and the last two weeks are traditionally the busiest. With walkups as well, we're hopefully looking at a 20% increase – something of that order. It feels different this time around, more relaxed in some ways, but we've also been more ambitious, so the workload is greater. We've also lost some of the stress of last time because we know so much more than we did this time twelve months ago.
People's attitudes are subtly different this time as well. I can appreciate that people were naturally a little cautious in supporting a fledgling festival in it's first year, but after the success of the first show, the attitude from fans, the people we work with, and the media has been more positive this time around. Not that it wasn't positive last time, but you can just sense a shift in attitude as people realize that we can do this properly.
R13: This years bill is a very strong one with Communic, Leaves Eyes and Kamelot on the bill, do you have any difficulty getting these bands to play in a country where they rarely play or is that part of the reason they agree to do it?
J: That's part of what PPUK is all about - the challenge of getting new bands over to the UK that haven't been here before and showcasing them in a great venue with a top spec sound system, stage and lighting. I think we have 5 or 6 bands who have never played the UK before, out of a bill of 8, so that is very rewarding in itself. The bands are always keen to come over. We haven't ever had a band turn us down because we're too small or it is the UK. They are usually really, really keen. The ProgPower name is trusted worldwide, and that gives us credibility. There seem to be a lot of cancellations and problems with shows these days, so often people are a little cautious, but again, after year one, we are now a stronger prospect for foreign bands to trust.
R13: What criteria do you use in choosing acts, and How do you find and choose the bands for the bill as Orphaned Land last year was an inspired and popular choice.
J: Firstly, they have to roughly fit the genre. Secondly, we have to like them, and thirdly they have to be a realistic & practical choice. There are also other factors, like are they playing any other UK shows, and do they fit in to the day in terms of the running order, and where they should be on the bill. The first 6 bands are fairly equal in my eyes – with equal show times etc, and then you have the special guests and headliner. Orphaned Land were great last year, and they gave the festival the 'X' factor. I love what they do, and ever since I heard 'Mabool' I wanted to get them on to the bill, and they went down a storm. We like bands with a certain something 'extra'.
R13: Scar Symmetry were down to play, why did they drop out? and how much panic sets in when a band drops out?
J: To be honest, it was one of those situations that was beyond anyone's control. They were offered a four week tour of North America instead of one UK show. Not a difficult choice for them maybe, but still disappointing for us. In a way, it was nice, late on, to have a free slot to choose another band for! I'd had Heed in mind for a future PPUK, and we got straight on to them and did the deal fairly quickly. With the Lost Horizon heritage, we are thrilled to bits to have them. I think that they're a great replacement, and I personally cannot wait to see them!
R13: There are no UK acts on the bill, is this because this country doesn't produce the kind of acts PPUK is looking for and if so why do you think this is?
J: I think that we choose acts for who they are, not by where they come from geographically. The pre-show party is a good showcase for a couple of excellent UK based progressive metal bands this year, and the CD sampler is also a great promotional vehicle for UK bands as well. There are some UK bands who qualify, the likes of Intense, Power Quest, Threshold, To-mera to name a few, but they've had exposure either at PPUK last year, or they're playing a Bloodstock. (We have stated that we'll try to avoid booking bands who play a Bloodstock festival either side of PPUK). There are some good and upcoming UK prog metal bands emerging, such as Neoentity (on the CD sampler), but they haven't got the profile to play the main stage yet. And, like I say, we're about bringing in bands from further afield that you just can't see over here very often. There are UK bands out there, but the market is really small here for 'pure' prog metal bands.
R13: Prog metal and power metal are somewhat ridiculed in certain sections of the metal press, how nervous were you about organising a Prog power
festival in the UK?
J: It really never entered our heads. We believe in the genre, and the fans, and that's all that matters. The reaction to last year was fantastic, and the support from the word 'go' was really positive from pretty much everyone. We know we're a niche market, and that's what ProgPower is about, whether it's in the USA, Europe or the UK. You have to really, really love the genre and the bands to dedicate yourself to something for such a long period of time, and yeah, we're never going to be Download, but that's not a problem for us.
R13: How (if at all) are the Prog powers in Europe and America different from PPUK?
J: We are different organizations, but with the same philosophy and ethos. That's it in a nutshell really. We went to PP Europe last year, and it felt like home!
R13: Why Cheltenham race course? It's a great venue, what made you think of it?
J: We searched for about three months for the right venue, and I just found the website for the Centaur one day, completely by accident. We went there, and were blown away by the venue, the staff, and how darn posh it is! We didn't want a dingy, smoke-filled venue where you are stuck to the floor all day. This might be the other extreme, but it fitted what we wanted exactly. A nice environment to spend a few hours in!
R13: How does a place like Cheltenham racecourse feel about 1000 heavy metal fans turning up at its venue?
J: They're really cool people, and very receptive to it actually. It's different for them and I think they were impressed with what we'd achieved as well, which was great. The security team said it was the nicest crowd they'd worked with, and I think that says a great deal. They are very hot on H&S and technical requirements, but they have a great venue to look after, and people actually seem to respect how nice the venue is, and that's cool.
R13: When you began to organize the event, were you deliberately aiming to be a far cry from Bloodstock?
J: Yes, and No. We realized that something like Bloodstock Indoor could work in the UK, and I take my hat off to Vince for doing it and inspiring us in a way. We kind of took the bits that we liked about Bloodstock and added some extras that we wanted to do (video screens, CD/DVD sampler etc) and that gives it our own twist. We don't want to compete with Bloodstock, and we'd rather work with a positive attitude and not be constantly compared to them. To be fair, people don't seem to compare the two, and that is cool. It shows that we have a separate identity, and people can see that we are different.
R13: Bloodstock has a second stage, did you ever think about a 2nd stage with some smaller bands on?
J: Too close to the Bloodstock model, and there's nowhere to do it at the Centaur really. I don't think that we will be doing this! I suppose you could put the stages next to each other, but it would be very small.
R13: Have you been tempted to do it over 2 days this year?
J: No. We want to get the one day perfect before we even think about two days. The pre-show is a nice thing to do on the Friday if you want to make a weekend of it, and it really gets people in the mood for a full day.
R13: What is the long-term aim for Prog Power UK?
J: We want to be the friendliest, most professional, independent metal festival in the UK. We try hard to be really approachable, open to new ideas, and be fair to everyone. We firmly believe that whilst it is important to have a strong vision for the future, we can also listen to the fans and get some really good ideas and feedback. We want to make the festival self-sustaining, and get to the stage where people trust the brand, and know that they will see great bands, in a great environment, even if maybe they don't know all of them.
R13: When you began to organize the event, what were your main priorities and what advice would you give to somebody trying to organize a small
J: Do your homework in terms of budget and the people on your team. Look at similar ventures, look at the ticket prices, and look at the numbers of people who go to those shows, and look at the geographical location of your venue. The big things are easy. Book bands, engage a PA company, book venue. Anyone can do that, but it's the little things like cost of security staff, advertising, ticket printing, posters, T-shirts, transport, back line & bank charges that can really add up to a lot of money.
As with any business, cash flow is vital, and having a wadge of money in the bank to start with would be dead handy. Plan your time well in advance, but be prepared for things to change, and don't stress over it (easier said than done).
Focus on the core objective of putting on the show. Everything else is peripheral. Also, treat the ticket holders with respect. Don't expect people to stand up for 10Hrs straight. Think of it from a fan's point of view. If you were going as a 'punter' what would you want to see at the show, and what facilities would you expect to be available? Listen to people's comments about other shows, and try and fix them for your event. I'll write a book on this someday! Oh yeah, and work permits. Absolute nightmare!
R13: Did the event break even in 2006 and if not do you expect it to in 2007?
J: No, PPUK I made a loss, and so will PPUK II. A break-even in year three or four is probably realistic. It is very expensive to do this, and it takes time to build an audience and loyal fanbase.
R13: Returning to this year's event, how big is the PA this year?
J: It's the same size as last year. I have no idea in terms of Wattage! The lighting rig is bigger & better this year though...
R13: Who have been the best (and worst if you're prepared ton say) bands to work with?
J: Off the top of my head, I would say that the Intromental bands (Comunic, Secret Sphere) are well organized and very easy to work with (great management makes a difference). On the other side of the coin, ...I couldn't possibly say!
R13: Finally our writer Pete Worrall is asking if his band (who appears on your promo CD) Bleak Exist can play next year?
J: Nice try..!
This year's Prog Power UK takes place on Saturday March 31 at the Centaur Cheltenham Race Course. Room Thirteen will be covering the event as we did in 2006, check our live reviews section from the beginning of April for coverage.
For more information on this years event
Room Thirteen covered the first Prog Power UK in 2006