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  INTERVIEW WITH DAVE RITCHIE, FOUNDER OF LES-FEST - PART ONE

Johnny Main

johnny main

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dave ritchie

Les-Fest is a name that should be familiar to regular readers of MetalTalk since 2012 when their first event was held, and ever since then we've always tried to keep up with what's happening up in the Clyde Valley.

With Christmas approaching and the first ever Les-Festive (did you see what they did there?) also coming up soon, we took the opportunity to sit down with Les-Fest founder, Dave Ritchie, for a chat and in the first instalment of the interview, we discuss how he got into Rock/Metal music, the origins of Les-Fest and what it takes to get a festival up and running.

Firstly, though, I asked Dave where his love of Rock and Metal music comes from?: "I am not too sure I could put my finger on that. As kids we used to go out in the car a lot and my dad always had the radio on or maybe an eight track, and we listened to all sorts of music. I do remember him liking a few tracks by The Who, he was famous for his Roger Daltrey 'I'm Free' (a track from their 1969 album 'Tommy' where Daltrey shows his vocals prowess by holding a single note for an extended period) moments and I know he had Deep Purple's 'In Rock' album too. I grew up through the Glam rock era so I always enjoyed bands like Sweet, Slade, Mud and Mott the Hoople - I guess that you can say I was "rock light!".

Article continues below...

   


"After that I think it was just my peers and mates because we all liked the same sort of stuff. Whether that was Black Sabbath, UFO, Uriah Heep, Judas Priest or Genesis, y'know. To be honest, though, when I got married and then my son Lewis came along I kind of went off music and gigs. As Lewis has grown up, I've rediscovered rock and metal and now he is introduces me to new music – it's the circle of life, isn't it? (laughs)"

With such a variety of bands that he listens to, I ask Dave what his most memorable gigs/festivals over the years are: "My first ever gig was Judas Priest at the Glasgow Apollo in 1978, on the 'Stained Class' tour - that gig would never leave you. I saw most of the bands that toured back then so yeah, Priest and UFO gigs were standouts for me as were The Scorpions and maybe surprisingly, (London based Punk band) Tubeway Army.

"I went to the "Garden Party with Marillion" at Milton Keynes Bowl (held on Saturday 28th June 1986, and also featured sets from Gary Moore, Jethro Tull, Magnum and the Mama's Boys) – that was my first major outdoor arena gig and still quite vivid. "I really loved seeing (Scottish Prog Rock three piece) Chasar play at the Heathery Bar in Wishaw – that was my favourite haunt on a Saturday night. IQ (a British neo-progressive rock band formed in 1981) also played a stunning show there.

les fest

"A real memory though is seeing King's X in Strawberry Fields, Glasgow (now re-named Ivory Blacks) - I loved the band and the gig was really intimate. To be honest, there aren't many bands that I haven't seen, right through the whole Prog and Metal genres over the years. The first Sonisphere Festival (held annually at Knebworth Park from 2009-2011) was brilliant because I went with my son Lewis and his friends - it was just such a great a friendly event but I also love my annual trip to Hammerfest these days and have to say I thoroughly enjoyed my first ever trip to Bloodstock earlier this year."

Bringing the conversation towards Les-Fest, I ask Dave if when attending Hammerfest or Sonisphere if he ever dreamt that one day he would be running his own festival: "Two years ago, absolutely not!. I've dabbled in music - playing, managing artists and I've done a bit of tour work, but that was all years ago. I would never ever have imagined that I would end up here!"

I ask him if it's true, as I've heard, that he had an "I have a dream..." moment about the creation of Les-Fest?: "Absolutely – I'm on record for saying so," he confirms with a grin.

"It was 30th March 2012 and it had just been announced that Sonisphere had been cancelled and I remember that Lewis was pretty gutted, as was I. I'd consumed a couple of bottles of red that night, well it was a Friday night, and I though 'sod it, we will have a festival in the village instead'. I knew a few bands locally, and I thought just go for it!

"That next day I went looking for a domain name for the Lesmahagow Festival and I knew that the name Les-Fest could be slightly controversial, but I did it all the same. Once the name was registered, there was no going back. I think Hammerfest came about in similar circumstances - an alcohol fuelled mad idea!"

I ask Dave how he found the location (Valley International Park) and how the officials reacted to the prospect of a Rock and Metal festival in their locale?: "Well, the initial idea was to put the event on in the local hall with five bands each night and it was originally envisaged that it would be held over the Sonisphere weekend – the start of July 2012. However, the hall keeper said they already had a booking that weekend, so offered me the last weekend in June instead and it was on that basis that I started to discuss the project with some local bands."

"Once I contacted the local council about it, it became very difficult to get all the concessions in place that I was required by law to have, and for a while at least, it was looking like it just wouldn't be possible. It was actually my brother, Craig, who suggested I look at Valley International Park because he was friends with the owners and they had two venues already on site, as well as some licensed bars and restaurants.

"He (Craig) mentioned that they had held some events there in the past, albeit not music ones, but we met with the owners to discuss what was possible and off we went! I have to add that it wasn't all plain sailing – we did have some licensing and policing issues, but once we had the correct security in place and adhered to the health and safety procedures, they allowed us to go ahead. The day before the event, it did get very close to being cancelled but we worked really hard to ensure that it went ahead."

les fest
Dave Ritchie, Johnny Main, Fede Valls

I ask if the festival has been easier to arrange in subsequent years to which he replies: "Not particularly, but the second Les-Fest (in 2013) threw up more and slightly different challenges. By them y'see, we'd jumped from two days to three and increased the band count from twenty six to sixty three! To accommodate this, we had the build a bigger stage, arrange for an outdoor bar to be erected as well as extending the camping area, arrange for showers to be installed and improve the infrastructure. It's a very steep learning curve and we are a very small team, but we all pull together and we cope with everything that's thrown at us!."

Les-Fest won the coveted Best Festival Award at the 2012 Scottish New Music Awards, and I ask Dave how it feels to have won an award with the inaugural event?: "That was an extreme honour – first to be nominated and then to go on and win! That was absolutely down to fan support and I will always be indebted to them for voting for us, but it is and always will be 'award winning' and that's a great little tag line that nobody can take away. The actual award sits in my house pride of place next to my Ray Harryhausen autographed picture!"

I ask if the term "award winning" gives Les-Fest an advantage over other music events when they are booking prospective bands or contacting band management teams about specific bands appearing? "It certainly helps when you have to send emails out to bands, managers and agents, but with all respect to the bands we had in the first year, we jumped up a level in the subsequent year, and that was probably down to the fact that we actually pulled it off first time around and people started to believe we could actually do it again.

"To be honest with you, we could fill ten festivals with the number of bands that apply to play every year, but our philosophy has always been that we will see all bands live before we book them. I know there are a lot of unknown acts for many people that attend but I can assure you that all the bands are top quality and it just shows you what the Rock and Metal scene in the UK is like, if you take the time to look.

"The challenge for us, is to grow the event and to do that we need larger better known bands, while at the same time leaning towards the underground scene, and the more established acts will come as the event itself becomes more established. That said, we have some really cool bands coming in 2014, which I believe to be a sign that the industry is starting to take the Les-Fest event more seriously."

Les-Fest is billed as "Scotland's only Rock and Metal festival" but I ask Dave where the musical boundaries lie when it comes to booking acts for the festival?: "Having three days to play with I am trying to cover many bases. If you look at the 2013 bill, we had (Thrash band) Evile playing on the Friday, Metal bands like Monument and Furyon performed on the Saturday, which also has some Rock almost Prog bands playing at times and then on Sunday we had bands like Jettblack and Bonafide, who are much more in the party hard/classic rock mould.

"Believe me when I say that for 2014 we have considered acts as diverse as (French experimental electronic music project) The Algorithm to (Scottish Folk Metal band) Alestorm and we even looked at (Glaswegian Death Metal band) Cerebral Bore - none of whom are actually booked to play incidentally, but it is a broad and diverse mix of bands that we look at.

"I mean, the term 'Rock music' is very subjective, isn't it? Fede (Valls – co-booker at Les-Fest), Lewis and I all have very different tastes, but I suppose what we don't really cater to is the "Kerrang crowd", if you know what I mean. Many of the acts they feature in those kind of magazines are kind of "flavour of the month" if you will - bands who are just fleeting with fame, but won't have a lasting career. For us, the bands have to have energy and intensity and I suppose it is mainly substance over style, but I definitely think you can see passion, determination and belief in all the bands we put on."

Moving on, I approached the subject of the recent additions to the Les-Fest diary – that of Les-Fest North West and Northern Ireland. Does Dave expect a Wales and South of England equivalent to follow next year? "These are all, again, just taking an idea and running with it type things. We have literally hundreds of bands that want to play and, as I said before, we want to see them live before we book them. For me, going to other festivals is great because we can see a lot of bands in a relatively short period of time, so that is why a good number of bands playing in 2014 are bands that we have seen at Bloodstock in 2013.

"Short listing bands that interest us and putting them on at one venue makes sense because we get to meet them, see how they conduct themselves, something which is very important to us, but, and this is the thing, we get to see a live performance - if they tick all the boxes they get a slot. The other thing for us is to look at it from a ticket sales point of view when it comes to the actual festival. Many of our supporters come from the North of England so it makes sense to take good rising bands from those areas, and the same rational applies to Northern Ireland and, of course, we already have Scottish showcase gigs too."

When pressed about future plans, Dave comes across as coy, telling me: "I can't say what to expect in the future, but I have plans and ideas as to where that will go - only time will tell!"

Talking of Les-Fest specifically, I ask Dave (roughly) how many bands send demo material to him and his team every year? "Probably in the region of four or five hundred plus and every single day of the year too! Fede and I could write a book with some of the terrible submissions that have been sent to us over the last couple of years! Half of me would like to write back and give them some constructive criticism or helpful advice, the other half of me thinks that people would just take a "who are you to tell us" kind of attitude. On the other hand, of course, we get some really professional submissions."

Dave goes further saying that any band are welcome to send a submission to the Les-Fest team but "it doesn't need a polished, properly produced demo or CD - or even professional photographs as long as they can see who the band are and what they sound like, they will be considered along with all the other submissions.

"However some applications have literally been an email that starts 'hey Les, check us out we rock' with a link to a YouTube video that was recorded in the local boozer and is nothing but distorted sound." However, he assures me that he would like to "genuinely like to assist people/bands to get onto the Les-Fest bill, and advice is freely given!"

So it's safe to assume that it's a "team decision" about who gets to play at Les-Fest? "There are a few people behind the scenes who are involved, but both Fede and I have ideas about bands we would like to have perform at the festival. I approach the bigger agencies whilst Fede goes out at a few festivals and he basically hits me with names!

"Quite often he (Fede) has them pencilled in before I have even heard of them. I trust his judgement 100% although, honestly, sometimes the music is not for me and vice versa no doubt.

"We're trying to cover many genres so it works on all level. My son, Lewis, is also a good judge and of course being nineteen years old, you could say he is more in touch with some stuff than I am at nearly fifty, but we all play a part. Ultimately it is not about where you fit in within the various genres, it is just the quality of the artists that determines who gets in."

In the second part of the interview, I discuss with Dave about the future of Les-Fest and his upcoming Les-Festive showcase.

Thanks very much to Dave Ritchie.

You can watch Dave and Fade onstage at Les-Fest 2013 here:



Les-Fest:
Les-Fest 2014
Valley International Park
Crossford,
Clyde Valley
Carluke,
ML8 5NJ

Online:
Official Website: www.les-fest.co.uk/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/LesFest

Click here for Part Two of this interview.


29.11.2013







 

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desert trip BREAKING NEWS: THE ROLLING STONES, NEIL YOUNG, THE WHO, PAUL McCARTNEY, BOB DYLAN AND ROGER WATERS ALL ANNOUNCED FOR MASSIVE GIG IN OCTOBER
A once-in- a-lifetime concert when six of the world's most iconic and influential rock and roll artists come together for Desert Trip...

alexander van der bellen UK EXCLUSIVE: AC/DC SOUNDTRACK ON AUSTRIAN PRESIDENTIAL PROMO VIDEO CAUSES COPYRIGHT CONTROVERSY
Herr Van der Bellen is not known to be an AC/DC fan although he is a self confessed smoker...

france euro 2016 FRENCH UP IN ARMS OVER KISS SONG BEING CHOSEN AS EURO 2016 ANTHEM
Euro 2016 kicks off in mid-June and France have launched their official anthem which is performed in English...

robert plant LED ZEPPELIN'S ROBERT PLANT GUESTS WITH DEBORAH BONHAM AT LOCAL GIG
Plant joined Deborah Bonham to perform the Led Zeppelin classic 'When The Levee Breaks' and a cover of the Johnny Kid & The Pirates standard 'Shakin' All Over'...

status quo STATUS QUO ANNOUNCE 'DOG OF TWO HEAD' ALE AND 'DOWN DOWN' CIDER
Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt of Status Quo are delighted to announce another great double act...

sabaton SABATON TO RELEASE NEW STUDIO ALBUM 'THE LAST STAND' ON AUGUST 19th
"Did any other artist ever say 'Our new album is the best we ever made'? That's not for us to decide, that's up to our fans..."

doro DORO TO RELEASE NEW LIVE DVD/BLU-RAY 'STRONG AND PROUD - 30 YEARS OF ROCK AND METAL'
30 years of dedication, passion and love for the music and her fans all over the world...

destruction EUROPE UNDER ATTACK! DESTRUCTION, FLOTSAM AND JETSAM, NERVOSA ANNOUNCE EUROPEAN TOUR
Thrash metal icons Destruction are set to fire their new missile of heavy 'Under Attack' on May 13th via Nuclear Blast Records...

grand magus GRAND MAGUS RELEASE NEW TRACK 'FORGED IN IRON - CROWNED IN STEEL'
"Metalheads! Grand Magus are back. We are proud to unleash this iron-clad anthem, we give you... VARANGIAN!"

tyler bryant TYLER BRYANT AND THE SHAKEDOWN SPECIAL UK HEADLINE WARM-UP DATE FOR AC/DC EUROPEAN TOUR CONFIRMED
Unleashing their high-proof blend of melody, muscle and psychedelic mystique to well in excess of 600,000 riff-hungry fans across 12 different countries...

klogr MUSE, TOOL, STONE SOUR, RUSH PRODUCER FOR KLOGR'S NEXT ALBUM PLUS NEW MUSIC VIDEO PREMIERE
Italian progressive metal band unveil the final music video from 'Make Your Stand'...

rage RAGE REVEAL LYRIC VIDEO FOR NEW TRACK 'SPIRITS OF THE NIGHT' PLUS NEW ALBUM TRAILERS
Iconic German metal trio Rage are set to release their new studio album 'The Devil Strikes Again' on June 10th...

bon scott LIFE-SIZED STATUE OF AC/DC LEGEND BON SCOTT UNVEILED IN KIRRIEMUIR
The bronze statue is the result of a two-year crowdfunding campaign which was supported by AC/DC and the band's former bass player Mark Evans officially unveiled it...

mikkey dee BREAKING NEWS: SAXON WITH PHIL CAMPBELL AND MIKKEY DEE TO PAY TRIBUTE TO LEMMY AT GOLDEN GODS, HAMMERSMITH ODEON
Ticket price is a very reasonable £6.66 with all proceeds going to Nordoff Robbins, Teenage Cancer Trust, and Childline...

mikkey dee BREAKING NEWS: MOTÖRHEAD'S MIKKEY DEE ANNOUNCED AS SCORPIONS DRUMMER
"We would like to continue our Return to Forever tour with James, but we have to realize that his health is priority..."

alex dickson gun BREAKING NEWS: ALEX DICKSON REJOINS GUN
As exclusively predicted by MetalTalk last week, guitarist Alex Dickson has re-joined Scottish rockers Gun...

cockney rejects WEST HAM UNITED TRIBUTE 'GOODBYE UPTON PARK' TO BE RELEASED BY COCKNEY REJECTS
"We were all born within a mile or so from the hallowed Boleyn ground and have all stood on the terraces through snow, rain and sunshine from a very early age."

ac/dc AC/DC RELEASE TICKET REFUND DETAILS FOR MOST EUROPEAN COUNTRIES
If you don't want a refund, then we'll see you at The Olympic Stadium in London as we think we're about to witness a major piece of rock history...

deep purple IAN PAICE AND DON AIREY SCHEDULE SOLO EUROPEAN DATES AS 2016 DEEP PURPLE TOUR APPROACHES
Deep Purple are kicking off their 2016 tour next month in Japan, before heading to Israel, Russia and Europe in June and July.

steve hackett STEVE HACKETT TO RELEASE 'THE TOTAL EXPERIENCE LIVE IN LIVERPOOL', HIS ACOLYTE TO 'WOLFLIGHT' WITH GENESIS REVISITED TOUR
"Besides, it's not as if Liverpool is known for having any good music – there's never been a good band from there. Ha!"

lacuna coil LACUNA COIL LAUNCH NEW ALBUM TITLE TRACK 'DELIRIUM'
Lacuna Coil will be making their much-anticipated return to North America as part of the 'Delirium Worldwide' tour starting in San Francisco on May 7th

bibeau YOUNG, PROGRESSIVE BAND BIBEAU OFFER THEIR FIRST SINGLE/VIDEO, 'MARK THIS'
"We were also hoping to convey the look, feel and flow of some of the classic, timeless rock and metal videos from the height of MTV's popularity..."

virginmarys THE VIRGINMARYS ANNOUNCE HEADLINE UK TOUR FOR JUNE 2016
"It's going to be so great to get back in front of our home fans again, and really important to us to play some of the towns we've been wanting to come back to..."

weapon uk WEAPON UK TO HEADLINE THE RETRIBUTION ALIVE ROAD TRIP IN MAY
"They toured with Motörhead in the 80s, including four sold out shows at the Hammersmith Odean and I have to say, we're pretty excited about this!"

headbangers ball ICED EARTH AND ENSIFERUM TO HEADLINE MTV HEADBANGERS BALL TOUR 2016: FULL DATES HERE
"So brace yourselves for the ultimate Metal experience of a lifetime! See you in front row!"

bloodstock BLOODSTOCK ADDS MORE BANDS, DETAILS METAL 2 THE MASSES FINALS AND ANNOUNCES FIRST NEW BLOOD STAGE WINNERS
Bloodstock HQ is readying to send Team M2TM out on the road for the finals, but in the meantime, there's a few more band additions to the August bill

dead daisies THE DEAD DAISIES ANNOUNCE UK AND EUROPEAN DATES FOR JULY/AUGUST IN SUPPORT OF NEW STUDIO ALBUM 'MAKE SOME NOISE'
The Dead Daisies, the biggest new name in Rock, have just recently announced the addition of Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake, Dio) as their new lead guitar player

wolf hoffmann WOLF HOFFMANN TO RELEASE SOLO ALBUM 'HEADBANGERS SYMPHONY' ON JULY 1st
"I have always incorporated classical music in my song writing with Accept, especially with 'Metal Heart', but I constantly felt there was so much more that I could do..."

jaegermeister JÄGERMEISTER RELEASE FULL DOCUMENTARY OF WORLD'S FIRST MUSIC GIG ON AIR, SEA AND LAND
"We go bigger every year and because of the nature of this world first this gig was not only a test of friendship but one of supporting each other too..."

john otway JOHN OTWAY PLANNING ON BEING FIRST ARTIST SINCE THE ROLLING STONES TO RECORD IN MONTSERRAT
"Although the old Air Studios are now derelict the studio in the basement of Sir George Martin's house is sound – it just needs rebuilding..."

fates warning FATES WARNING - NEW STUDIO ALBUM 'THEORIES OF FLIGHT' ANNOUNCED, ARTWORK UNVEILED
"There's a loose theme running through a lot of the lyrics, and this developed organically and separately..."

amon amarth RAISE YOUR HORNS AND BE IN AMON AMARTH'S NEW MUSIC VIDEO
Swedish Heavy Metal goliaths Amon Amarth are inviting their fans around the globe to be a part of their forthcoming video...

sixx am SIXX:A.M. ANNOUNCE THE "#REASONTORISE" CAMPAIGN, TOUR DATES AND 'VOL.1 PRAYERS FOR THE DAMNED' DETAILS
"It is our duty as citizens of this world to come together, communicate with one another and rise up to demand more of ourselves and our leaders."

armored saint ARMORED SAINT ANNOUNCE EUROPEAN FESTIVAL AND CLUB APPEARANCES
"For our first time in Spain, it's gonna be sick! And as if this wasn't enough - Saint is playing for the first time ever in Japan..."

black country communion BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION TO REFORM IN 2017
"Preparing BCC Rocket Ship Re-launch for 2017 - all systems go."

tarja TARJA PREMIERES OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO OF HER NEW SINGLE 'NO BITTER END'
'No Bitter End', the opening track of the prequel album 'The Brightest Void', is the first glimpse of Tarja's new work – her heaviest to date...

stratovarius STRATOVARIUS RELEASE LYRIC VIDEO FOR 'UNTIL THE END OF DAYS'
"To me it's a testament to the fact that paying attention to song writing and production was expensive, but so worth it..."

brian johnson EXCLUSIVE: PROMINENT AC/DC CREW MEMBER GIVES REMARKABLE INSIGHT INTO AXL ROSE APPOINTMENT
AC/DC are covering themselves in case Axl's poor reputation for unprofessionalism manifests itself...

brian johnson THE DARKEST DAY OF MY PROFESSIONAL LIFE: BRIAN JOHNSON ISSUES PERSONAL STATEMENT ON AC/DC DEPARTURE
"I wish to assure our fans that I am not retiring. My doctors have told me that I can continue to record in studios and I intend to do that..."

thin lizzy THIN LIZZY ANNOUNCE BASS PLAYER AND NEW DRUMMER FOR 2016/17 ANNIVERSARY SHOWS
Thin Lizzy are undisputed legends and to be a small part of their lineage is a humble honor for me...

ian gillan IAN GILLAN TO PERFORM UNIQUE SOLO SHOW OF DEEP PURPLE CLASSICS IN BULGARIA
There is a possibility that Ian will also play some material from his catalogue outside of Deep Purple...

don airey DEEP PURPLE'S DON AIREY AND FRIENDS ADDED TO CAMBRIDGE ROCK FESTIVAL PLUS ATOMIC ROOSTER
Expect to hear many classics from Airey's illustrious past which includes time spent with Rainbow, Ozzy Osbourne as well as his current job with Deep Purple...

wildfire festival WILDFIRE FESTIVAL 2016 ANNOUNCE SUNDAY NIGHT HEADLINERS AND FIVE MORE ACTS
With June creeping ever closer, Wildfire Festival's impressive main stages line-up is all but finalised...

whitesnake THE END OF WHITESNAKE: DAVID COVERDALE TO RETIRE IN 2017
Whitesnake headline the UK's Ramblin Man Festival in July in what could be their final ever UK appearance...

axl rose AXL ROSE CONFIRMED AS AC/DC SINGER FOR THE REMAINING ROCK OR BUST DATES
The worst kept secret in rock is now official...

aerosmith THE END OF AEROSMITH?: NO FAREWELL TOUR CONFIRMED AT THE MOMENT
"A farewell tour is something we've talked about doing for years, let's say roughly in the last five years..."

hrh united ALESTORM, HAMMERFALL, FINSTERFORST, NAPALM DEATH, ARMORED SAINT, VENOM INC. AND EVIL SCARECROW ANNOUNCED FOR HRH UNITED
HRH United 3 will be an exclusive upgraded Metal Edition taking over the entire site @ Camp HRH, Pwllheli, North Wales...

rolling stones PROUD GALLERIES PLAYING HOST TO FABULOUS ROLLING STONES PHOTO EXHIBITION: TERRY O'NEILL TO ATTEND SIGNING SESSION
It's a wonderful book by photographer Terry O'Neill of Rolling Stones images from 1963 to 1965, an era when the Stones were just "breaking through"...

between the buried and me BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME ANNOUNCE EUROPEAN SUMMER DATES
As well as the European tour dates, BTBAM have launched a live video for 'The Ectopic Stroll' whih you can see here...

jade vine LONDON BASED ALTERNATIVE PROG ROCKERS JADE VINE ANNOUNCE ALBUM LAUNCH SHOW
Jade Vine's music has been influenced by artists such as Pink Floyd, Jeff Buckley, Radiohead, Anathema and Pain Of Salvation...
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