Power Metal Quest Fest has gained a loyal following over the past few years and it’s gets bigger. Find out what happened when Rock Out Stand Out’s Lotty Whittingham spoke to Power Metal Quest Fest promoters Gemma Lawler and Amie Chatterley about the origins of the festival, the power metal scene, mental health and what quest they would partake on.
For those who don’t know what Power Metal Quest Fest is, can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Gemma: So, the origins story is that Amie and I were drunk in camping chairs at Bloodstock; which has been our spiritual home since the first outdoor one. We were doing that thing people do where they’re like “there’s not enough power metal bands” and we were like “wouldn’t it be great to put on our own power metal festival”. It took us a couple of years to get it off the ground. We played around with the idea and then one year we decided to do it. We thought “let’s put on a power, melodic metal centric UK festival that could eventually get to the point where we could draw the European bands that we wanted to watch.” Essentially we wanted to watch more power metal bands so we decided to put on a power metal festival.
Amie: Not just power metal bands, I think melodic bands in general. There are so many events out there for death metal and really underground heavier styles of metal that I am fully on board with, I’m a massive death metal fan. However there was nothing specific to the melodic scene as well and not a lot of networking opportunities for bands who are from that scene. They are also put on a bill with other bands that aren’t similar to them, I mean how many times have we been put on a line up with five death metal bands Gem?
Gemma: Yep, that tends to happen a lot. It would be two death metal bands, a groove metal band then Dakesis. It got to the point where it became the norm and we wanted to be able to meet others who make music like ours. We’re both huge extreme metal fans so it’s not about wanting to make a space away from that, it’s about wanting to make some room for the kind of music we make and for others who make the kind of music we make.
You have had some great bands on your past line ups like Control The Storm and Primitai.
Amie: Yes, we’ve had Primitai, Dakesis a few times, Dendera, Nightmare World and we’ve had Ancient Bards. We’ve also had Memories Of Old, Luke Appleton. We’ve had a rock school choir.
Gemma: The rock school choir did power metal covers. Of course WomenOWar, which is an all female sort of but not tribute to Manowar. It’s made up of me, Amie and friends of ours. That started off as a joke and we decided to put it together for the festival, all of the gigs we have done with WomenOWar since then have either been headline festival shows, sell out shows and private events. WomenOWar really took off.
For someone who hasn’t been to a WomenOWar show, what can we expect?
Gemma: Baby oil, really high pitched notes and a lot of tongue in cheek jokes. Also really good musicianship whilst doing what we think are really good jokes. It’s a novelty and a bit of a p*ss take but it’s done with love. That’s the best way to describe it I think, it’s mockery done from the deepest place of our hearts.
Unfortunately this year’s event was postponed due to a number of things. For those who are thinking about coming to Power Metal Quest Fest, tell us why they should come.
Amie: OK, we’re an independently run festival that is not for profit. So, everything we make goes into the bands and back into the festival. It is an awesome atmosphere of like minded individuals who like all sorts of different music and melodic metal. We’re very inclusive and we’re very passionate about creating a safe space for people of all different cultures and backgrounds.
Gemma: It’s a very female friendly festival, I think the fact it’s run by two women has something to do with it. We find the gender split at our festivals is more women every year, it’s because the atmosphere is so lovely. It’s such a niche sound and we attract such a niche crowd, everyone there has something in common. We have seen great fan friendships and communities spawn off. Of course, it’s about the music so come down and see these amazing bands that you can’t see anywhere else. Also, come and meet awesome people.
Amie: The line up is handpicked and curated by us. I spend a lot of time going out to shows and looking for new, upcoming bands to put on the bill as well as trying to get bands who may not necessarily be able to come over from Europe because they haven’t had the opportunity yet. As well as branching out and getting slightly bigger bands to fill that gap so we have a great array of musicianship on the stage which is incredible.
Was going to ask how do you go about finding bands to put on the bill, you say you head to live shows, do you also go by social media following?
Gemma: Not really, I mean there is an element of that when it comes to promoting bands but to be honest, we watch the bands. If they’re European bands, we will check out their YouTube accounts and we’ll ask people to send over footage or there will be bands with established fan bases that we know want to put on. But every single year, we’ve opened applications and if someone really piques our interest, we’ll go an watch them or we will send other people to watch them and feedback what they think but when Amie says curate, we want to make sure the line up is perfect.
Amie: We really want to create an atmosphere as well, we want the bands to fit. Although there is an element to looking at people’s social media, we really want to give the opportunity and the chance to some of the harder working, more independent and lesser known bands to come play our festival because we really want to create a platform where they can showcase their music.
If someone from a band see’s a poster for Power Metal Quest Fest, how can they apply?
Amie: They can apply through the website, as we are transitioning to the new line up there are some web changes going on in the background but for the bands that do want to apply, there is an apply to play section where you fill out the form. We do look at every application, it takes a long time.
Talking about applications, it makes me wonder how many you get.
Gemma: They increase every year so the first year we had about twenty. The last time we had hundreds. In a couple of years it might be thousands, we get a lot of applications as no-one else is doing this sort of festival this side of Europe.
Would you agree that because Power Metal is niche is why it has such a loyal following in the UK?
Amie: I do think it has a very loyal following. I’m not sure why it’s so niche here in the UK because it’s huge on the mainland, especially in places like Germany. I wonder if maybe some of the bands don’t come to the UK because of various expenses and it’s only going to get worse unfortunately. Maybe that’s why we don’t get so many over here because perhaps they don’t want to come and play an all day death metal festival, I mean who knows.
Gemma: Where else can you see power metal in the UK other than Bloodstock? Once in every three or four years Nightwish will play Download or Firewind might be on a second stage somewhere but if you’re into power metal, the only place you can go to is Bloodstock which has an amazing array of power metal bands that we have enjoyed over the years. But if you want something that’s specifically for that scene, you’re either flying to the mainland or you’re coming to Power Metal Quest Fest.
At Rock Out Stand Out, we are hugely passionate about mental health awareness. Is there anything you think we can do more of so people feel comfortable about talking about their mental health?
Amie: I think keep talking about it. It’s certainly something that has a big narrative. My background is actually mental health nursing so that seeps it’s way into everything we do and even all the work we do with bands, artists and putting on festivals. There’s a huge thing about mental health and wanting people to have safe spaces, the thing about Power Metal Quest Fest is having somewhere people can go to if they want to go somewhere quiet if they need to and we want to be on hand to help. I think having the conversation, raising awareness and encouraging other people to talk about it is really the best way of helping others and normalising mental health.
Gemma: It’s got to be normalised. The more we talk about it, the less stigma is attached. Mental health is something that has touched everyone over the last couple of years in one way or another, so there’s no shame in talking about it. Come to a show, listen to a band who plays songs about their issues with their mental health and discuss with your peers how you feel about it who may also be going through the same thing. Talking about it can make such a difference.
Is there anything you both like to do to help calm or ground yourselves with if you’re feeling overwhelmed?
Gemma: We’re really into this Danish band called Mew, how would describe their music Amie?
Amie: Alternative Pop Rock
Gemma: Our drummer Adam [Harris] really got us into them and it’s very soundscapey. I think there’s also some avant garde metal bits in there. But it’s like this dreamy, lovely calming sound and we went to see them in London as our first post Covid indoor gig. It was so magical, that’s who I put on when I need calming down. Their music is very comforting. What activities do we do to calm down?
Amie: Gaming, going for a walk.
Gemma: Spending time together.
Amie: Yes spending time together and trying not to talk about work.
Gemma: Which we find very difficult, if we go out socialising we are always buzzing about emails we have got. When you’re job, artistry and passions all roll into one, how can you hang out with your best friend and relax when you’re best friend also runs a festival, two bands, a music school, a record studio.
I told a couple of people I was interviewing you today and they came up with a couple of questions. Would you like to do an outdoor festival?
Gemma: That’s always been the long game for Power Metal Quest Fest.
Amie: That was our intention and we did look at venues with camping but the logistics and financials just weren’t viable for that scale when we first started. Promotion is very expensive, there’s a lot of health and safety involved, there’s a lot of administration; it’s takes me a whole year to prepare for a one day festival indoors where a lot of the health and safety elements are sort of taken care of because we’re indoors. Like I have said before, as an independent festival that’s not for profit we don’t have any outside financial backing or funding. Most of the funding is from the bank of me mostly.
We have to be careful how we scale up because you can get into a lot of problems and we seen this with festivals over the years where people try to go too big too quickly and at the last minute the festival is pulled. People have re-mortgaged their houses and have got into a lot of debt. So, the end goal is to take Power Metal Quest Fest outdoors but obviously that relies on how we grow and the continued support of our fans who are absolutely wonderful.
Gemma: What we have built every year has been built by the fans, every year makes the next year bigger. If we keep going the way we’re going, we will get outdoors and we will get there.
Another one for you, who would be part of your dream festival line up?
Gemma: Manowar. Manowar playing three days in a row and playing every song they have ever written just for me. That’s my dream line up.
Amie: That would be so expensive. [laughs] Symphony X
Gemma: Yes Symphony X, they’re not the biggest band on our dream list but the day we book Symphony X is the day we’ll be made as that’s our favourite band. There’s loads fairly big names that are on our dream list, bands like Sonata Arctica.
Amie: Definitely lots of Finnish bands.
Gemma: Ancient Bards were on that list, when we booked them that was a huge deal for us. We wanted to see Ancient Bards play in the UK and had to create an opportunity for it. So if you can find out who our favourite bands are, you will have a good idea on who might be coming up in the next few years because that is generally how we pick and choose. So we can’t say too much or we will be giving all our ideas away.
What quest would you take part in and why?
Gemma: It’s got to be the ring to Mordor.
Amie: Yes it does, I have that scheduled in my diary fairly often.
Gemma: Yes you do actually. Adam scheduled it in Amie’s calendar for 2024.
Amie: Everytime I leave my phone somewhere, he’ll set a calendar reminder to take the ring to Mordor two years in advance and then suddenly a reminder pops up to say take ring to Mordor. The first time it happened I was wondering who had done it and Adam was cackling in the corner so yes I am on board with take the ring to Mordor.
Do you have a message for Power Metal Quest Fest and Dakesis fans and our readers?
Gemma: Thanks for being awesome and we can’t wait to see you at a show. I can’t wait to see people enjoying live music and being together again.
Amie: As well a huge thanks for persevering. It’s been incredibly difficult for everyone but for those of us who are organising festivals and shows, it has been catastrophic; especially with Brexit. So huge thanks to everyone for something in their patience whilst we scramble frantically to get things moving forward and back on the road.
Our fans are awesome and they make me really emotional when I think about it because they do so much for us and we’ve really missed everyone either Quest Fest or Dakesis fans. It’s been a long two years.
Gemma: We are coming to see you all soon. Dates in the calendar are filling up so if you’re a fan of anything we do, you’ll get to see that at somepoint in the next year or so.
Thank you so much for speaking with Rock Out Stand Out today, it’s been a pleasure.