Interview: Heavy Scotland

I love metal and I think there should be more metal for everyone so I'm giving it all I have to create a killer event, which people really enjoy.

The year 2017 is only just over a week young, but there are some exciting festivals and events on the music agenda to look forward to and some are approaching fast. One such event is Heavy Scotland, a brand new Scottish metal festival which will be held at the Edinburgh Corn Exchange on April 1-2. Heavy Scotland has been gradually raising releasing big name after big name for its first instalment, such as Behemoth, Arch Enemy, Destruction, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Grave and many more, getting people very excited about this new 2-day metal festival in Scotland. With the main line-up now complete our metal editor Sander van den Driesche caught up with Heavy Scotland’s festival director Caitlin Elliott, who’s solely responsible for bringing this event to Scotland’s capital.

(((o))): You have been working towards this festival for many years now so could you maybe give a bit of background, such as where you’re coming from and where you got the idea from to put this event on?

HS: Having been into metal since I was twelve, it is something I am now very passionate about. My background is in events and festivals and I’ve been attending festivals myself for many years. The atmosphere at metal festivals is always incredible. The metal scene is a great community and to be able to bring more metal to a city where there isn’t a huge metal scene as such, is a very exciting experience. When I did my Masters in Edinburgh there wasn’t a metal festival like this in Scotland and so the journey to create the biggest, heaviest, most exciting metal event in Scotland began. It was important to help grow the metal scene and help underground bands as there are so many skilled musicians who deserve a place to show their music in front of a huge crowd who love metal.

(((o))): How long have you been working towards this festival?

HS: For about 2 years now. I do this full time, I left my job and put everything in to this. But I’ve been planning it for probably 3 years and it has been an idea for about 5 years. It was already discussed with Havok when we toured together in 2013, so it has been a long time coming.

(((o))): I’ve been following Heavy Scotland since you first appeared on the scene so to speak, and you’ve been very gradually using social media to build momentum. Was that your strategy, to basically spend a few years building a community and network before you announced the dates and some of the big names?

HS: Yes, it was important to see if the festival was a viable idea and to get a feel for the scene in Scotland, to see if there was a good response towards the idea before taking a big plunge. When I saw how many amazing bands and how passionate people are about metal here, it was a natural choice to make the festival happen in Scotland.

(((o))): Are you originally from Scotland?

HS: No comment, hahaha! I’ve been in Edinburgh for 3 years.

(((o))): So you really had to see what was happening in Scotland and Edinburgh in terms of the metal scene?

HS: Yes, I moved to Edinburgh to study again and it was hard not to fall in love with this amazing city and the Scottish. I love the Scottish, I think they’re absolutely amazing. But no, my blood’s Irish, hahaha!

(((o))): And then you were in Scotland and you realised we miss a big metal festival up here and you saw the opportunity?

HS: There are so many awesome bands in Scotland who do really well up here, but don’t seem to get further and gain a wider audience. Some bands gain a more international following, but there are a lot of bands who should be heard by more people, but they haven’t had a chance to get out there. Music is a gift and it needs to be shared! It seemed like a really cool idea to create a platform to get these bands into the wider metal scene and hopefully help them grow and start touring and spreading their amazing music further than Scotland. At the time of planning the festival there wasn’t anything like this so I wanted to take the opportunity to bring more metal to Scotland whilst helping underground bands. I love metal (haha, have I said that enough yet!) and I think there should be more metal for everyone so I’m giving it all I have to create a killer event, which people really enjoy and hopefully underground bands will appreciate another platform they can use as well.

(((o))): I am very impressed with the names you’ve booked so far. I saw Behemoth once before and I was blown away! To see them at the Corn Exchange, basically on my door step is a once in a lifetime opportunity really, because I don’t think they will ever play in a city like Edinburgh again.

HS: Oh they’re incredible! Their live shows blow me away each and every time. I feel as if I can jump full force into a wall and bounce back unharmed every time I see them, haha- they make you feel invincible and euphoric. They really bring out a fire in my soul, as if all my love for metal ignites at once. Definitely a band everyone has to see live- and once you’ve seen them once you will never miss their shows again. They have only ever played in Glasgow (whilst I’ve been here anyway) so it is an honour to bring them to Edinburgh.

Heavy Scotland poster with full line-up (excluding local battle of the bands winners)

Heavy Scotland poster with full line-up (local battle of the bands winners still to be announced)

(((o))): You seem to know a lot of the big names out there?

HS: Having lived in five countries you get to know a lot of people! I have made some amazing friends over the years. It was when I was living in Belgium about 6 years ago that I made my first friend in a more established band, if you will. The Bonecrusher tour came to Belgium and John Gallagher was talking to me and I don’t smoke, but for some reason I had a spliff that night, I’d probably recently been to Amsterdam, so we shared that and were talking about life and metal and we stayed in touch. Then the next week the tour manager from that tour saw me at another gig which Jeff Loomis was playing at and we started chatting and stayed in touch. Then it snowballed from there. There have been a few tours I have done since then and I do academic work in metal as well. I’ve been behind the scenes, so to speak, without really working for any big metal companies, for about 6 years. When presenting my research at a heavy metal conference last year I made some lovely new friends, so getting out there and working hard leads to good things and great friends. Some people are now good friends and others are more acquaintances who I work with or hang out with if we are at the same place.

(((o))): Does that help you getting the big names to Edinburgh? I know you saw Arch Enemy at another festival before you announced them for Heavy Scotland. Is it as simple that you hang out with them and you get to know them and they’ll come and play for Heavy Scotland?

HS: They were booked before then, but having friends in the industry led me to the right booking agents and then having the honour of being invited to festivals, when you’re backstage you meet the booking agents, you meet lots of important people and it can help you get one step closer to your goal. So yes it does help, but one needs to work incredibly hard as well. Having told people what I am planning and the aims to help the metal scene probably helped gain trust and gave people confidence in the festival. At this point it has taken several years of planning and researching and preparing to be at a stage where I can tell the right people what my goals are. Perhaps if I had just decided to run a festival with no preparation I wouldn’t have been able to book bigger bands. As with anything in life, networking is important, but so is hard work. It is my pleasure to do what I love, but it is a full time job- and definitely one I am honoured to do. I am very lucky and really enjoy creating this event.

(((o))): This is the first time you’re organising a big festival under your own business name. Do you think some booking agents of big bands might think there are some risks involved? Especially as there have been big festivals that had to cancel quite close to the event dates over the last couple of years because of lack of ticket sales and issues like that.

HS: Perhaps anyone outside of those festivals doesn’t truly know why they did not go ahead. There are a number of ways to ensure the events go ahead so if they were cancelled it was probably due to a number of reasons. We don’t know. Not everyone will have the same business model. There was one other band approached who didn’t want to go ahead this year, but they are happy to play in the future. So yes, perhaps not everyone would take the risk if they feel there might be one. It is the same in any field, embryonic businesses are high risk. However Heavy Scotland has been planned for many years to ensure these risks are totally minimised.

(((o))): It’s very easy to lose money putting on events like these. Sometimes with festivals like these it’s a matter of organising it a couple of times and then you get to a point when you might start breaking even or even making some money, or not?

HS: With any new business the first year you’re not going to be making tons of money unless it is something totally unique and millions of people want/need it. With festivals it’s usually 3 to 5 years on average to break even, however there are always exceptions.

(((o))): You do have sponsors involved I think?

HS: Yes we’re getting sponsors on board. We have 4 amazing sponsors already and will keep looking for more. Hotter Than Hell Tattoo are the most badass tattoo studio in Scotland, they have a Kiss pinball machine in there. They are very metal so were the perfect sponsors for the festival. Every little bit helps. It’s not always money through sponsorship, some businesses sponsor items or products. It is really amazing to receive all that support and I am very grateful to everyone and every company which helps us.

(((o))): Your festival is potentially attracting a lot of people from outside Scotland as well, so it’s an appealing opportunity for sponsors to be involved, or not?

HS: Definitely. Half the tickets have already sold abroad. We’ve sold in 7 different countries, the other day a ticket sold in Chile- someone is flying in from Chile! This is such an amazing feeling and I am so humbled that people are taking the time and making the effort to support us. It’s definitely an attraction to a lot of different people, I feel very blessed to be able to do what I love and help the metal scene.

(((o))): Do you think the fact it’s being held in Edinburgh, which is a great tourist attraction because of its history and it’s a nice place to visit helps at all?

HS: Yes that adds a big element. It’s a great city, it’s beautiful. There’s a lot of attraction here for tourists for other reasons. So I can imagine that all the people who have bought tickets and are flying in are coming over for more than just the weekend. Scotland has also been voted the number 2 country in the world to visit in 2017- so to all those metalheads abroad who have always wanted to see Scotland, now is the perfect time.

(((o))): You’ve booked a lot of big international names already for Heavy Scotland. Tell me about the Scottish bands you’ve booked so far.

HS: There are so many incredible bands in Scotland and it is really cool to have the opportunity to give these bands a platform. I am humbled by the amount of bands who applied for the festival and I look forward to future editions of Heavy Scotland to give as many underground bands as possible a set at the festival. First up this year are Disposable, who are a local Edinburgh band. They are young and full of energy and have a great following here. They play really tight thrash, which sounds old school yet fresh and new. And Centrilia, who are from Glasgow and are one of my personal favourites. They are so powerful live and definitely have a big future ahead of them. One of the best Scottish bands around in my opinion.

(((o))): Are you using the big Heavy Scotland stage as a platform for local talent? I know you’re doing a battle of the bands as well. Can you tell me a bit more about that?

HS: Absolutely- we have guests flying in from around the world so it is an honour to give these local bands a chance to gain a whole new audience. They all deserve a platform and I am lucky enough to give them one. It’s my colleague Pat from Myrockout Promotions who’s organising the battle of the bands. Out of the 8 Scottish bands, one will win the slot to play at the festival. So with Disposable and Centrilia there will be 3 incredible Scottish bands who are playing the festival this year. Every year we will have space for local bands as they deserve a platform.

(((o))): Can you tell anything about the judges for the battle of the bands competition?

HS: I cannot say anything right now, haha! It is in Pat’s hands, I am not involved and I won’t be judging. It has to be organic, the winner has to be 100% organic and any of these 8 bands are more than welcome at the festival as they will kill it on stage and blow the audience away.

(((o))): So why doing this battle of the bands rather than to directly book local bands you know of and you like?

HS: Well, we have Disposable and Centrilia already and it was always the goal to have the battle. So when Pat asked if he could do the battle I said yes, that sounds great. It would be good exposure for the festival, it would be great exposure for the bands, and it would be a lot of fun building up towards the festival with 3 really great gigs and there will be a headlining band every night. So basically there will be more metal for everyone, which is the goal!

(((o))): Tell me more about your business, like are you doing this all by yourself?

HS: Yes. The business was set up by myself and day to day tasks are run by myself. However there are some amazing people who help with certain things such as Pat doing the MIND battles and the amazing designer who helps with all the posters etc (I am very, very blessed to have such generous people in my life), but for now I am the only employee, however in the future the goal is to employ more people as creating jobs is important for the economy.

(((o))): Well, that’s very impressive.

HS: Thank you. It’s my life, this is what I do. I am honoured to have this opportunity to help others, to grow the metal scene and to do good things, such as help the Little Princess Trust Charity. We will offer up to 20 people free tickets if they donate 12” or more of their hair to the charity. Please email info@heavyscotland.com before making a donation as there are some requirements for this.

(((o))): The VIP tickets you were selling, have they sold out now? 

HS: When the tickets first went on sale it looked like they were going to sell out really quickly, as the first bunch of people buying tickets were buying VIP ones. That slowed down a bit as weekend tickets started selling well. The VIP tickets with the festival t-shirt have sold out and now all the VIP tickets have also sold out. You can only get a certain number of people on the balcony, so I thought how am I going to manage this with 2,500 people per day? It was decided that we would offer VIP tickets which allow access to the balcony, so then there’s no pushing or shoving if anyone wants to be up there. But not everyone wants to spend their whole 12 hours either in the pit or down in the crowd and as you know the Corn Exchange doesn’t have a lot of seating either, so for a little bit of extra money you can have the seating, and you can have the best view in the house when you’re not thrashing around a circle pit. We will put some speakers up there as well so it sounds amazing. Due to popular demand we have added a VIP bar access ticket, this will give guests access to the VIP bar where they could have a drink with their favourite musician if they are lucky and there is a small amount of seating in there. This will not give access to the balcony though.

(((o))): I read that you’re planning meet the band opportunities as well? 

HS: Yes we will be doing meet and greets as well. These will be quite exclusive though and we will announce details soon (ish).

(((o))): How do these work? Do people have to pay extra for these?

HS: People do not have to pay to meet the bands. We have singing sessions with some of the bands, including Arch Enemy. They’re releasing their new DVD on the 31st of March, so that will have just come out and it’s therefore the perfect time to get your copy signed. The meet and greets will be more exclusive and limited. However the signing sessions will be for everyone who wants to que up at those particular times.

(((o))): Fans will definitely appreciate that. They like having opportunities to have their photo taken as well. 

HS: Absolutely. These people are amazing musicians, we love what they do and it’s great to meet them. I think it’s awesome!

(((o))): Both Behemoth and Arch Enemy will play UK exclusive shows at Heavy Scotland then?

HS: Yes, though Arch Enemy will be touring for their DVD release, but this is their only UK show. Not exclusive for the whole year maybe as they might book another show in the UK later on, I don’t know. But as it stands it will be their only UK show for the DVD release tour.

(((o))): You’ve announced mainly bands from the extremer side of metal and then you’ve announced Shiraz Lane. Is that the odd one out this festival?

HS: Hahaha, well the goal wasn’t necessarily just to book extreme metal bands. It was always the goal to have killer bands who deliver insane shows, but I ended up going quite extreme with the genres at the beginning as those bands are all ridiculously amazing when you watch them live. However Shiraz Lane are also really awesome, I’ve seen them live a few times and the crowds always get really in to them. They played in Edinburgh the other day on the Lordi tour and the crowd loved them! It was actually impressive how many tickets sold the next day after that gig. It was an awesome feeling to watch and believe it or not, there are a lot of requests coming in from fans wanting to come to the festival just for them. So perhaps a hard rock band sticks out a little but they will still impress the crowd- and if not I will enjoy seeing them again, haha.

(((o))): I’ve asked you everything I wanted to know, is there anything you would like to add?

HS: Yes, thank you so much to everyone who has supported the festival so far. We could not run this without your support. The metal community is a great community and we’re going to have a great weekend! To everyone who is traveling from near and far, this will be worth it. We are going to have the biggest celebration of metal that Edinburgh has ever seen (I think it is the biggest anyway!). Come along, meet new people, buy some cool merch at our metal market, eat some great food at our food court, discover some incredible new bands and just have a great big metal party.  Warm up your neck at our pre party and then party the night away at our after party!

(((o))): Ah yes, tell me about those. Do you know where the after party will be held yet? 

HS: This will be more central in Edinburgh and we will probably have a bus to take people down from the main venue. And a bus to and from Glasgow as well. The warm up party will have 4 really awesome metal bands on the Friday and the after party will probably just be DJs and lots of metalheads! Perhaps even a famous musician will be DJing as well…

(((o))): The after party and the warm up on the Friday are included in the ticket price?

HS: Yes, that’s correct. Can’t wait to see you all there!

Heavy Scotland takes place on April 1-2 at the Edinburgh Corn Exchange. Tickets are for sale through here. You can find more info on the Battle of the Bands nights here.

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