Interview: Mike Jones – Ghostfest [March 2015]

By Lais

This year marks Ghostfest’s 10th anniversary. The metal and hardcore festival has been running for a whole decade, and in order to celebrate, they’ve made some changes with an additional location and much more. We spoke to the man behind the scenes, Mike Jones, to find out the score.

It’s Ghostfest’s 10th anniversary this year. What have you got in store for us?

That would be telling! What I can say is this is by far the biggest version of Ghostfest that we’ve ever put together. Not just because we’ve added the extra date in Bristol but also because of how much higher profile the line-up is.

You’ve changed the date of Ghostfest from late June to September this year. What made you do that?

The big thing for me on this was just avoiding clashes with other festivals. There are so many good events in the UK now that by having Ghostfest in the same period as Download / Slam Dunk / Impericon Fest / Outbreak / Temples and all the others, you face issues not just with artists’ availability but also with exclusivity clauses too. It’s pretty well known that the headliners for last year were also playing Download Festival and so contractually Ghostfest weren’t allowed to announce them until after Download, leaving a window of only a fortnight or so to advertise the fact they were playing Ghostfest! There have been issues like this for a few years now but this was the turning point I think.

You’ve added an extra location – Bristol – and changed it to a one day festival in both locations. How did that come about?

I’ve had the idea for some time now but I’ve actually only just come back into the Ghostfest fold this year. I previously worked on the festival in 2009/2010 but then left to set up my venues so haven’t been able to implement it until now. The reasoning behind it is quite simple: if you can offer bands two sets of fees for doing two events rather than one it’s just a lot more appealing for them. This makes the trip more financially viable for them and actually just a lot more worthwhile too. Realistically Ghostfest isn’t a major UK festival and as such flying 10 or 15 hours to come and play one show is difficult to sell to bands unless it’s main stage at Download or Sonisphere. If they’re already in Europe on the festival circuit over the summer it’s a slightly different matter, but then by staying in the summer you run into the previously mentioned issues with exclusivities, clashes and so on.

Which venue will it be in Bristol and will you still be using Leeds Uni?

We’re in Motion in Bristol which is one of my own venues and is an incredible space for an event like this. It’s not a standard venue by any means, it’s actually a converted skate-park and up until quite recently was used mainly for raves! Back late last year my own company The MJR Group struck a deal with them to implement live music and other events into the calendar on a more regular basis and since then it’s been non-stop. We’ve put lots of great live shows in there – The Game, Enter Shikari, Adam Ant, Joey Bada$$, even Chas & Dave! A lot of the shows have been more in-line with the Ghostfest audience too – Architects, Fucked Up, Crossfaith and so on – so I know the venue works for this genre. It’s also the home of Temples Festival which had its debut last year and returns with Converge headlining this year so logistically I know the site can handle something like Ghostfest.ย For Leeds, yes we’ll still be in the University there. It’s a great venue with everything under one roof so right now there’s no need to change that.

Can we expect exactly the same types of bands as previous years or will you be branching out a little?

It’ll certainly be more diverse than it has been in previous years. That doesn’t mean to say we’re going to go out and book pop bands but it does mean that there will be bands with more crossover appeal into other genres. It’s quite well known that the traditional market for Ghostfest style bands in the UK is shrinking and to keep pace we do need to diversify things a little to evolve and stay relevant. Ghostfest will always be a metal and hardcore festival and I wouldn’t want to ever change that, but that’s not to say we can’t have some fun with other styles too.

When can we expect to hear some line up announcements?

The first announcement is Friday 3rd April at 9am, and that’ll be our main stage headliner. After that we’ve got another announcement on Friday 10th April at 9am and that’ll be a mix of bands who are in for various stages. Thereafter it’ll be a pretty steady stream of releases across all stages over the next few weeks and months. I’d like to put the whole line up out now so everyone can see who we have, but things are not that simple these days unfortunately!

Will there be any band reunion shows?

Everyone’s been asking about this as it’s the 10th Anniversary, and I can say now that yes, there will be some. Exactly who they are obviously I can’t say right now but people can make their own assumptions. As much as it’s important to me for the festival to evolve over the next few years it’s also important to remember that Ghostfest has been running for 10 years now and that should be remembered and celebrated too. Nowadays with venues closing everywhere and promoters/festivals going into liquidation on a regular basis it’s nice to look back and appreciate that really Ghostfest has achieved something special.


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