The last of three articles on the awesome Mammothfest in Brighton – Day One and Two reviews already published on 21 October.
It’s difficult to get time to have a few words with Steve Dickson, the hugely enthusiastic and humble founder and organiser of the Mammothfest festival. Firstly, as well as keeping the whole thing running, making sure the right bands are ready at the right time and leading his team of volunteers, he announces each band and thanks them at the end of their sets. And secondly, when he gets a rare breather, there seems to be a succession of women keen to spend time talking to him. Such is Steve’s humility, I’m sure he’d dismissively explain away all the attention, but clearly he is a popular chap. He’s also far too nice to ignore anyone and is generous with his valuable time. All this means that when we do finally get a few minutes to talk during the second evening of the festival, it means missing part of the mighty Akerccke’s set, although we saw enough of it to know that it was bloody good and we could hear the band throughout as a thoroughly enjoyable soundtrack to our short interview.
Now in its fifth year, Mammothfest takes place at The Arch, right down on Brighton’s seafront. The venue is about as metal as you can get – small, loud, swelteringly hot, filthy toilets … you’ve all been somewhere like it. Steve invests heart and soul into the festival and when he thanks the audience between bands, it’s heartfelt. Not the dispassionate thanks you might get at a huge stadium gig, or the insincere rail company announcer apologising for the delay to your train, he is genuinely grateful to each and every metal fan who has spent their hard-earned cash to support the event.
Steve Dickson – courtesy of Simon Balaam. Simon specialises in photographs of live events and can be contacted through his website, www.simontakes.photos
Steve works tirelessly to get the best bands he can and the line-up this year is hugely impressive: Tsjuder, Akercocke, Lawnmower Deth, Fleshgod Apocalypse and, from the way Steve talks about them, the icing on the cake – Rotting Christ. Day One was a roaring success and the prolific Greek veterans did not let the side down, putting in the flawless performance that we would expect and Steve would have been hoping for.
It seems appropriate to start the interview with what seems to be Steve’s proudest moment so far as Mammothfest’s driving force.
TMO: Steve, when introduced Rotting Christ to headline Friday’s show, you seemed like you were really buzzing.
Steve Dickson: Yeah. I remember years ago listening to Megadeth’s Countdown To Extinction. It was actually my dad’s album. Then I heard that Dave Mustaine had refused to play a festival because a band called Rotting Christ had been booked. I found that pretty ridiculous, but it also made me wonder what this Rotting Christ were like, so I checked them out and loved what I heard. Getting bands like Rotting Christ and Tsjuder to play this festival is a dream come true.
TMO: How did you feel Day One went?
SD: It was beyond expectations, fantastic. And we doubled sales on the day, so tickets were sold out, which is amazing.
TMO: How have you found working with the musicians?
SD: Some of the bands are great, but some aren’t. Some of the bands aren’t humble at all, and they talk to me like I’m a piece of shit. That’s really disappointing – I’m trying to build up this festival and I’m working with tight margins, but some of the bands don’t help. You know, Rotting Christ ‘get it’. They understand what this is all about, how hard it is to build something up and they really buy into that. They are an example of how to be. But there are other bands who are less successful and well-known than Rotting Christ, but have bad attitudes and big egos.
TMO: Rotting Christ’s attitude really came through last night – they kept telling the audience to “keep the festival alive”, so clearly they care about what you’re doing here. What about the other bands – any characters?
SD: Well, Tsjuder have been amazing, great guys. Akercocke as well, really humble and easy to work with. And Lawnmower Deth are just really funny, great entertainment, and again really nice blokes.
TMO: What are your ambitions for Mammothfest?
SD: I want a large open air festival in Brighton with the top metal acts in the world, and also showcasing up and coming bands. I don’t know about capacity, but I’d be aiming for twenty thousand. I moved from Wales to Brighton 15 years ago and I really want to build something from here.
TMO: That sounds incredible. How realistic do you think it is?
SD: Completely realistic. We have an investor who has made an offer and we’re working together to make it happen. We’re hoping to have our first outdoor festival in 2019.
TMO: You’ve done a bit of growling yourself introducing some of the bands. Have you been a musician yourself?
SD: Yeah, I was in Meta-Stasis. I was a masked figure just called “Anon” and my job was to create the electronic part of the music.
TMO: Cool. I was really impressed with them. Quite brutal Death Metal, but with some really groovy and even funky parts. As I’ve said in the TMO review of Day Two, a couple of the tracks were like a cross between Cannibal Corpse and Stuck Mojo – and much better than that might sound!
SD: Yeah, that bit you describe as like Stuck Mojo was what I brought to it with the electronic elements, but the rest of the band decided they wanted to go in a new direction, a stripped back sound without the electronic stuff, so more straight ahead Brutal Death Metal. For me, that was our Unique Selling Point, so after 4 or 5 years in the band I decided to leave. We’re still friends, but musical differences meant I decided to move on.
TMO: That’s a real shame. There are loads of bands like Cannibal Corpse, but today was the only time I’ve heard one that sounds like Cannibal Corpse and Stuck Mojo had a baby! We were very impressed with local band Vehement on Friday. Is there much of an extreme metal scene in the south-east?
SD: The metal scene in Brighton is fractured, despite our best attempts to bring it all together but there are plenty of people here who love metal so yes, there is a scene but its not anywhere near as strong as it could be. People have their tastes and support what they like, which is understandable, but from our perspective I really hoped people would open their minds and understand the importance of attending other shows too, because the success of an extreme metal show enables us to generate the funds to bring more bands from other genres, so it all feeds in. If people don’t care, what can I do about it? I think it would only be noticed if we were to give up and then all of a sudden people would complain there is no scene.
TMO: Heavy Metal doesn’t always have the greatest reputation with the general public; how have you found working with local authorities, etc in Brighton?
SD: To date we haven’t really done anything big enough to give the council cause to work with us in any capacity. We are very respectful of our town so while we do poster and flyer, it is done in the right places to avoid fines and causing upset. We’re keen to start working with the council in the future when we use their land to go outdoors so it would be foolish to cause problems at any stage. Besides, we love Brighton and have the utmost respect for our community.
TMO: Any chance of a sneak preview of who might be on the cards for Mammothfest 2018?
SD: I’m afraid not at this stage; we have a plan to almost go underground for a few months, finalise plans and make some impressive announcements in 2018 when ready.
TMO: Never mind, it was worth a try! Finally Steve, any message for the readers of The Metal Observer?
SD: Yes, absolutely. This isn’t like voting, where a lot of people think votes these days, in elections, doesn’t really count for anything as one vote isn’t going to change anything. This isn’t like that – every single person who buys a ticket and comes down here makes a difference. The people who organise and run Mammothfest, we’re a group of 30 people and we’re all volunteers, we don’t make a penny out of it. All of the money goes back into the festival, to make it bigger and better every year and that’s what we’re doing – you can see that with the line-up we’ve got this weekend. People buying tickets is like a co-operative investment – we’ll grow that nest egg to something really big. So please come along next time!
It was great talking to Steve and we’d echo his words – if you can get to Brighton next year, even if it’s just for one day of Mammothfest, please do. It’s definitely worth it.