Ricky Bates – Wrongwayround / WTFest 4

By Tom Aylott

We caught up with Ricky Bates of Wrongwayround Promotions and WTFest for a chat about this year’s WTFest, the Southampton scene and what bands should be doing better to get on festival…

Hi Ricky, how are you today? Have you been enjoying the abnormal weather or doing what we’re doing and crouching over a computer? 

Hello! I’m doing grand sweating from every pore possible but i can’t complain! I am currently crouching over a computer until the early evening when i finish work, but i will be out and about this weekend for sure.

Firstly, WTFest is in its fourth incarnation this year; can you explain how it started and where you see the festival in the future?

Sure, well the idea behind WTFest came to fruition at the FEST 6 in Florida at silly o clock in the morning over a drunken chat with friends. I can’t remember who exactly was there but basically we said “why aren’t  we doing this in the UK”?

Book a bunch of venues for a few days in one city , get all the punk bands from around the country to come play, have a bunch of fun for a few days and just be lost in the drunken moments.

For the future, I really see it just getting bigger with more stages each day and doing something different to keep it fresh – this year we have a castle show and an outdoor stage in the park. Ideally, i would like to do it next door to a water park like fluff fest but that would be probably be a little costly…

As long as the small demand and UK scene stays as connected as it currently is I think we will come on leaps and bounds. As long as the current UK bands become more popular over time and we can expose more people to them.

What would you say is the core “ethos” of Wrongwayround? What promoters in the UK do you look up to?

The core ‘ethos’ i think has always been to give the bands we love exposure to a good crowd, and make sure they are well looked after and having a great time regardless if theres 25 people at their show or 250. Most of the bands who come through become friends and then it becomes a yearly visit for them.

From a fans point of view, it’s to make the shows as fun and as cheap as we can logistically make them, to give people great memories and keep them coming back and supporting the music – coming as close to a actual ‘scene’ as we possibly can.

Other promoters in the UK who I personally think do it well are of course Jon & Ex Dave House at Banquet for some of the bigger acts playing in tiny venues that you think could never happen. It gives you the motivation to make these things happen outside of London as generally all the ‘special’ shows are always in London or Kingston so it’s an uphill struggle to make something different happen outside of there.

I admire what the Living Daylights guys have done the past few years with CRASHDOUBT in Lincoln, as it takes a lot of ‘testicular fortitude’ to make large events happen in place that isn’t a touring town or city all year round. I always see great things happening with Leeds, KK in Manchester, Dom in Bournemouth who has been around a long time and doing it for the passion still, Dave B in Bristol, the Everything Sucks guys… the list goes on… I respect the hell of people who make shows happen in places that are a tough market like tiny towns or villages.

Of the past WTFest events, what are the bands you’re most proud of booking, and who was the biggest coup for you this year?

I was really glad to work with GOAT before they broke up, since those guys all do other stuff involved with the industry and also have the same roots in terms of punk rock bands they loved when growing up.

In terms of being ‘proud’ i think it’s all relative to how i remember the sets from each band. On the 1st one, A WILHELM SCREAM blew my mind, 2nd one THE SKINTS really stood out also. Last year AGAINST ME! & getting to do the last ever DON RAMOS PLAYERS show was something special to me personally as i know how much their band meant to them personally it was a real tear jerker! Then there was the aftershows in a house with APOLOGIES, I HAVE NONE and more, which was a huge fun memory for me!

The biggest ‘coup’ for us as WWR this year so far of course was THE BOUNCING SOULS playing the joiners to 200 diehard fans going crazy.

It was kind of surreal to see them the week prior mainstage at GROEZROCK in front of 15,000+ people and then see that a week later. The whole evening was insane.

There’s so many festivals going on all year around in the UK, and seemingly more so in the punk scene than there has been in a long time. Do you think that the scene is doing well despite changes in the way people listen to music?

I think from an outside perspective if you go to these ‘punk’ festivals and you see its busy you could assume the scene is alive and bursting at the seams, but in reality the majority of the these bands play to 30 – 60 a night when touring.

I think  putting a festival together is a real confidence booster for promoters because you have all those bands in the same place at the same time so people come out. In reality, that said festival is only once a year so people in that area really need to try and come to 1 or 2 shows a month minimum to make it work as a full time ‘scene’.

The way people access music now is very positive, with apps like spotify and last.fm and music being so accessible at the click of a button, but at the same time the accessibility also stops people from getting away from their laptops when they can just stream the show or watch a live recording merely seconds away on YouTube. Some people seem to ask “Why would you travel for a hour to show when you can watch it in your own living room?”

Sadly those demographic of people do make up the numbers difference at shows and keep it ticking over.

Would you say that there’s too many festivals, or do you think that the punk/alternative scene has an all-year desire for all dayers and multi-day events?

There is definitely too many festivals in the UK commercially. In the punk/alt scene i think we are at breaking point, it’s clear to see with things like Sonisphere being cancelled that the alternative scene is becoming such a niche rather than something accessible for everyone.

I certainly think there is an all year desire for all dayers et al as it’s part of lifestyle. There’s always been all dayers, especially in the punk scene, and I think that all boils down the sense of community and people wanting to be around their friends and be part of something honest and not something they are ‘sold’ but rather making the conscious decision to go themselves.

How do you feel about the Southampton scene at the moment? We’d rank it up there with Brighton and Kingston for community but haven’t been there for quite a while…

Well you should get your asses down here then! The Southampton scene is very ‘competitive’, although none of the promoters will admit it – there can be 5+  shows going on in one night sometimes when national tours stop here.

In terms of people doing punk or DIY or hardcore shows, there’s 4/5 active promoters doing something every month so there is certainly a scene, but there is also a divide since there is so much choice for people with free shows and paid shows and charity shows – it all becomes a bit of a rat race.

We have some amazing shows coming through, so in terms of having the ‘names’ it’s certainly a great place to be if you are into the alternative scene at all.

I’d say it was the same in Brighton for the most part, and as for Kingston it looks as though Banquet really have it covered there.

How do you feel about the ongoing “influx” of album sets and reunion at the moment? What band or bands would you pluck from the scrap yard to play at something Wrongwayround were putting together if you could pick any of them?

Sure, well this is happening a lot recently – especially in the last 12 months. Its all a new approach to get more people to shows or to put a breath of fresh air into a show or band. It can become boring for bands who have been touring for 5+ years playing the same similar set list every night, so im a fan of album shows as long as they are done all over the country and not exclusive to one place.

I went to THE BOUNCING SOULS albums shows last summer and it was amazing because i knew exactly what i was paying for. I personally think more bands need to do it in the UK and stop making it so much of an exclusive thing – ALKALINE TRIO have done both the GODDAMMIT & MAYBE IL CATCH FIRE tours in the U.S but never here. I think we would appreciate that happening here, and there is certainly a market for it to be all over the country if people want to go to a certain album show they can travel a few hours – we are a tiny little island!

As for reunions I’m fine with them as long as the band turn up well equipped to blow your socks off and not a bunch of old unrehearsed dribble. Things like REFUSED coming back for whatever reason they have is fine. They toured for years and years on £100 fees and practically created a sub genre, so they deserve a payday. Most the ‘hardcore’ bands around today wouldn’t exist without them.

Same goes for things like THE DESCENDENTS. I saw their show at GROEZROCK and they blew me away. I’m very thankful they got back together as I was too young the 1st time around to see them. They are the backbone of the punk rock scene for a large wad of bands.

As for BLINK 182… they still aren’t forgiven. They came back worse! Until they start writing blink songs TOGETHER again, I won’t approve 😉

What would say is your favourite festival or all dayer (that isn’t WTFest) in the UK that you look forward to every year?

Europe does them all better, but for the UK….


There is still some I haven’t been to though, like manch-fest-er and Out Of Spite.

We’re sure you get a fair few requests for slots on WTFest every year – what would be your advice to bands looking to get on those festival slots? What instantly puts you off and makes you think it’s worth taking a gamble on a band?

Ha! It gets a tad crazy with bands wanting to play. Generally the way i pick the ‘smaller’ bands is to pick people who support us or who will come and play all year round.

When a band mails that I’ve never heard of and only wants to play because they love the big headliner, that generally puts me off because they haven’t done anything to earn it… or they are a metalcore/cockrock band that is just seeking some exposure on the wrong thing.

At the same time, if you have some good recordings and the right attitude, but you haven’t had a chance to tour Southampton, there’s no reason you couldn’t play.

The thing is there’s 10+ festivals that do other commercial genres or sub genres that are a guaranteed sell, all with the same boring line-ups every year from the same booking agency… so i suggest to the bands that don’t ‘fit’ to go apply for those instead!

As a festival, we attempt to be different in the fact way that we support the hard working touring bands, mixed with some great headliners from the states or breaking bands here in the UK.

We won’t put you on simply because you can sell tickets or are popular in a magazine or on a TV channel (#THEEASYSELL), and being ‘friends’ on Facebook isn’t a shortcut either!

Work hard put out a good record and ask us next time!

WTFest 4 details: http://www.facebook.com/events/222185967893665/

Latest WTFest poster!

Try these three interviews

Interview: Greywind [Reading 2016]

Interview: Arcane Roots [Reading 2016]

Interview: Trash Boat [Reading 2016]