“it’s not about who’s big or the most popular, it’s about who is putting on a good show”

This time last year, Power Metal Quest Fest postponed until this year and Rock Out Stand Out’s Lotty Whittingham spoke to organisers Gemma Lawler and Amie Chatterley which you can read here. Now fast forward to today and it’s happening this weekend. Lotty caught another chat with them about the festival, in particular what first-time goers can expect, as well as other topics such as mental health and the importance of how power metal helps them feel. Here’s what happened.

So, hello Amie and Gemma, thank you for joining Rock Out Stand Out today. So, Power Metal Quest Fest is finally happening after two years, how exciting is that?

Gemma:  Super exciting.

Amie:  It’s been a long time coming. What’s it now Gem, two years?

Gemma:  2019 was the last one.

Amie:  It’s suddenly here and here we are.

Before you joined our call Gemma, Amie and I were discussing it was this time last year that I was speaking to you both about Power Metal Quest Fest. I can’t remember if it was when you decided whether it was going to go ahead or not. There’s been a significant change in the line-up since we last spoke.

Amie:  Massively yes, so the original line up was supposed to be happening in 2020 and we had some European bands on the bill, and it was the last show before Brexit hit. Then obviously we had the pandemic and by the time we rescheduled several times, last year when we proposed the line-up and we had to pull the show, a lot of the bands either couldn’t make it, or we lost a lot of the bands particularly from Sweden and France due to the financial complications of getting into the country after Brexit. It’s been a journey picking this one back up after everything that’s happened.

Gemma:  Considering how we had a couple of bands from the continent come and play in 2019. We had Ancient Bards fly over and it was really easy, there was still logistics to organise but it was a case of you book the band and they will come. The difference between how things were in 2019 and how they are now is catastrophic for a small festival like ours. I also think catastrophic for the bigger festivals as well. The price of everything has gone up obviously but the bureaucracy and the red tape is more than we can commit to, it’s been difficult.

Amie:  Yes it has been difficult.

Gemma:  Any band and anyone in the creative arts who wants to bring in art from outside of Britain is going to have to face an extra cost and that’s how it is. It’s the same the other way around for us as well. If we as a British band go and play in Europe, it’s lot more complicated than it used to and it’s a lot more expensive. Just for one show we’re going to need a carnet which is a document outlining every plectrum and guitar string, every piece of equipment which we’re taking with us. New rules about merchandise and having to declare things that are for sale at the border, so it really is a completely different environment than pre-Covid and pre-Brexit touring.

Amie:  It’s a lot more paperwork too.

It’s important to discuss this stuff so people understand what goes on. Do you have advice for those who are looking to put on a festival? In particular to those promoters starting out and aspiring promoters.

Gemma:  Do something you love; do something you know and prepare to spend a lot of time and hard work on it. That’s what it takes.

Amie:  And money.

Gemma:  Yes, let’s be honest, money.

Amie:  I think people aren’t very transparent in the industry so when people want to put shows on, they never know the extent on what happens behind the scenes until they go ahead and do it. It’s a shame. Part of what we do with Quest Fest is that we try to be transparent with people; we’re independent, we’re completely self funded, we don’t get any backing.

Gemma:  We’re non-for-profit.

Amie:  Yes, we’re not for profit and everything we do, we want to work hard to pay the bands and to build up a community. I think so long as people are willing to learn and they understand that live event management is a huge task and it’s not just about putting on a show, there is all the logistics that come with that. For example, you have health and safety, risk assessments, making sure your volunteers, your crew and the artists are safe as well as members of the public. There is so much involved but there are also some great resources available that will help with things like that and lots of people in the industry that talk about this stuff. So definitely do your research and maybe try something small and manageable before diving in headfirst to large scale productions which doesn’t often work.

Gemma:  That doesn’t sound like something we would do [laughs]

Amie:  We’ve been there.

Let’s talk about the bands that are playing Power Metal Quest Fest, you have Symphonity headlining. We also have bands like Battle Born and Fellowship.

Gemma:  We were really impressed by Fellowship. I think a lot of people have got them very high up on their bands to watch list. I mean we only have one stage so ideally people will get to watch all of the bands, but we have heard a lot of good feedback from Fellowship.

Amie:  I specifically went to go watch them at Bloodstock, I headhunt at all the power metal bands at these festivals. I went to see Fellowship and Battle Born at Bloodstock specifically to see if they were suitable for the festival and they were great. Fellowship played Warhorns as well before one of our Womenowar sets so we managed to catch them then too. There is some really good power metal coming out of the UK at the moment which is great because we’re restricted in getting bands over here.

Sellsword are playing as well. They went on a hiatus and now they are back which will be very cool to see.

Gemma:  They did. We’ve known them for a very long time, they were our tour support for the New Dawn tour on the UK leg in 2016 so we have known them for a while. They played the very first Quest Fest line up and they are really good friends of ours, we love them, and we love their music. I think it’s going to be an incredible experience to have them back and to have them back at Quest Fest.

In some ways, Sellsword are already Power Metal Quest Fest veterans.

Gemma:  Absolutely, practically the house band. That is Dakesis technically, the bonus of running your own festival is that it’s really easy to book yourselves. I think Sellsword were supposed to be involved in Quest Fest two or three but it was around the time they didn’t have a vocalist so we absolutely can’t wait to have them back. They are so much fun; I hope they bring their trebuchet. Amie, did you put that in their contract that they had to bring their trebuchet?

Amie:  I didn’t but I might have to go back to them and ask them what they can do. I believe this is their debut show where they are going to showcase their new vocalist, so we are very excited to be able to host them at Quest Fest.

That’s a selling point in itself, as a well as it being an afternoon/evening of Power Metal. For first time goers of the festival like myself, what can expect from Power Metal Quest Fest?

Gemma:  Really good vibes, that’s a pretty abstract way of explaining it but it’s really fun. Everyone seems to be having a really good time, I mean Amie and I are super busy on the day running around and making sure things are running smoothly but every time I stop to talk to someone, they are always really happy and it’s a really fun place to enjoy a niche metal together.

Amie:  It’s a really good community we have built up, everyone is really respectful of one another. We try and make it as safe and inclusive as possible; we do everything we can to take on people’s feedback. Everyone is very respectful, and everyone is there to enjoy music. What’s really great about that is we give a platform to a lot of artists that deserve to be seen and it’s not about who’s big or the most popular, it’s about who is putting on a good show, who do you need to be seeing at the moment. We always try to include new and upcoming bands so people can see what’s available throughout the whole day. People always come to support the bands by buying their merchandise, discovering music and people, the fans in particular, are excited about discovering new music and talk about it in a really positive way. It’s a great community that we have built up over the years.

Speaking of making it inclusive, I remember in our last interview you mentioning you had a quiet space for those who feel overwhelmed and need a breather.

Amie:  So, we were looking to see what we could do about creating safe spaces for people that maybe get a bit overwhelmed and overstimulated. The venue has changed a little bit since the last time we ran this and they have some areas at the back of the venue where the merchandise used to be, there are a few seats and it’s away from everywhere else although it’s still in the main venue. My plan is to create that space for those who do need some time away from crowds, but we also have the outdoor area and all of our staff that have lanyards are able to support people who are feeling overwhelmed, they may need to get some air. Perhaps they are feeling uncomfortable around people, we really want people to know that they can come to our crew and talk to us about this, we will support them and help them to deal with what the problem is. 

It’s difficult being in a venue that isn’t ours, it’s an external venue but it’s something we really want to incorporate in our events to make sure they inclusive and safe for people to come and enjoy music. We also understand that people can become anxious or overwhelmed and they need that space to decompress if things get a bit noisy so we’re always open to suggestions for how we can improve things for people. Anybody that has suggestions on what we can do to improve and if it’s in our power, we will always do it.

What advice do you have for bands that would really like to play Power Metal Quest Fest?

Gemma:  The trick is to book a gig in Birmingham and be a power metal band. One of us will be at that gig and be like “oh we should book this band” but we do have a submission form as well, that would be the sensible answer.

Amie:  The sensible answer is do not message me personally on Facebook. If you want to follow the apply to play link that is on our website and include all the detail, then we will look through your submissions. I get hundreds of messages from bands asking to play the festival on Facebook, on my personal Facebook and it’s not just for this festival but any artist or musician that is working in the creative festivals and trying to get onto festivals. 

If festivals and promoters have a submission process, read it and follow it. If you cannot follow that process that has been made clear on their website or platform and you message them, how are promoters and festivals going to expect you to follow instructions on the day. It will raise big red flags if you can’t follow a simple set of instructions, how are you going to perform in a stressful environment so use the apply to play form on our website.

Gemma:  But Amie does sneak into the back of every power metal gig in a thirty-mile radius. She is always watching so be aware. If you play power metal in this here town, one of us will find out about it and go and watch it. [laughs]

Amie:  We want you to come and play our festival, we just also want you to fill out forms correctly and not message me personally on Facebook.

At Rock Out Stand Out, we spread mental health awareness. There have been two major changes in the UK this month, a new prime minister and the Queen passing away, do you have tips or advice for those that may not be coping with change?

Gemma:  Well, I think this is a quote from the Queen, I’m not sure but the quote is grief is the price we pay for love. I suppose if you’re very effected and very sad by it, it’s because you have lost what brought you joy along the way. It’s a bittersweet way to think about things but I think that’s how I try to think about my own grief. You’re only sad because things were good. We process grief by writing that whole album, Fractures is all about grief. Go and write a progressive metal album, that will help you feel better.

Amie:  If you can’t write an album, reach out to friends, family or people you feel safe talking to. There’s a lot of change happening, we’re heading towards a catastrophic time in terms of the cost-of-living crisis amongst other things and it’s quite scary. People’s futures are uncertain and potentially going to impact people’s mental health quite significantly. There are services out there, I know there are huge waiting lists for GPs and mental health support but there are charities such as ReThink and Mind who do support people who are having difficulty with their mental health. If you need something more immediate and you’re feeling like you’re in a crisis the A&E, 111 or Samaritans are a great service to catch up with and get immediate support. Don’t suffer in silence.

Gemma:  Those were two very different answers. That’s why we’re such a good team because I offer abstract concepts whilst Amie offers straight to the point instructions on what you need to do. I second everything that Amie said there and it’s really important to talk about this stuff, it effects everyone in some way or another. Just to loop it back nicely to the festival; we do this stuff, create music and put on shows so you can have that good time so you can have that escape and that night with loud noise and good people around you. The rest of the world is difficult to navigate at the moment and by being together in a community having people you care about around you is really important. It’s the core reason for doing what we do.

That’s an awesome reason, that sounds similar to why we focus on mental health at Rock Out Stand Out. We do it help people feel less alone and looping it back to the festival, power metal is well known for helping you feel good and like you can conquer anything.

Gemma:  It helps you feel something. I love power metal because it makes me feel like I can do anything and there’s definitely something in the structure of the genre to make you do that but it’s escapism also. There is also some dark, emotive power metal out there too. As a genre it’s very expressive and it’s very uplifting, it can make you a lot of different things. It’s a theatrical art form and a lot of people find that very comforting, I know I do. I would love to see a man in leather trousers holding a sword, singing about the glory of metal. I would love to see a woman doing that, love to see all sorts of people do that. Loin cloths, swords and battle wails for all.

It’s my personal favourite genre to write about. Speaking of line ups, which musicians would be part of your dream supergroup?

Gemma:  It would be Manowar, playing all Manowar songs. [laughs] 

Amie: Obviously Russell Allen and Floor Jansen on joint vocals. Nino Nerenay on guitar.

Gemma:  Yep, OK. What about drums and bass? Aste from Beast In Black and Thunderstone. Marco Hietala on bass. We just need keys and another guitarist.

Amie:  We can put those on the backing track, that’s a solid line-up.

Gemma:  And they only play Manowar songs.

Do you have a message for Power Metal Quest Fest fans?

Gemma:  Thanks for being awesome is my little one.

Amie:  We hope you enjoy our fourth instalment of the festival, and we couldn’t do it without you.

Thank you so much for speaking with Rock Out Stand Out and best of luck with the festival.

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