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Johnny Main

johnny main

wildfire festival

Wildfire Festival (previously held under the Les-Fest banner) is Scotland's only Rock and Metal festival, and with the 2015 event just weeks away, MetalTalk caught up with festival director, Dave Ritchie, to see how this year's festival is shaping up.

Firstly I asked him how preparations for this year's event were going?

"Everything is very much in hand this time around. Having moved location quite late on last year (to the festival's current location at Wiston Lodge), it was once again a very steep learning curve, but having put that one behind me, I'm much more comfortable on what was required and where to find what we need."

So, what prompted the name-change from Les-Fest to Wildfire?

"The whole Les-Fest thing was fine and being based in Lesmahagow it made sense. Moving location gave me the opportunity to take the name out of Lesmahagow and not tie it down to one specific location. There was also a consensus coming from some band agents and press offices that the name was seen as a bit of a joke, so Wildfire Festival it is, and Wildfire Festival it will stay!"

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How many tickets have been sold so far, and how many are still available?

"We are up considerably on the same period last year and what's more exciting is that there are a whole host of new names on our mailing list who are buying for the very first time. We will have tickets available right up until festival time, but if anyone out there is thinking about a weekend or camping ticket, then my advice is that they had better buy them soon. The camping tickets are the fastest selling ones and the campsite is filling up day by day."

The festival is at the same site as last year, so how much added work have you had compared to last year?

"I'm not sure there has been much more work really, but we have consulted with both Wiston Lodge and our main suppliers and contractors and we are making lots of improvements to the site. Some of these improvements have been infrastructure that we worked on over the winter whilst others are pretty much cosmetic. We're trying to make the place look better in terms of layout, lighting and still manage a few surprises. There is a whole lot more going on this year, but more than that we have a strong team now involved in all aspects of the event so that the look, the feel and indeed the overall image is much more coherent."

As in the past, will the main stage be enclosed this year?

"We've moved from a more traditional marquees to clearspan ones (ie. they don't have any interior support poles like you do in a circus tent or traditional pole marquee so there's nothing to obscure the audiences view of the bands). It's essentially a steel building, covered in canvas which is far more flexible for our needs. We can open them up or close them down and even remove whole sides and backs if required – depending on the weather, of course. It gives us a lot of options and we will make decisions nearer the time. It may well be that the stages are pretty much in the air this year, if the weather merits it, but if it doesn't then it will be like big club venues but in the most stunning setting!"

wildfire festival

There are three stages this year, so how do you plan to avoid the inevitable band clashes?

"We've worked very hard on the scheduling this year, and on the whole, as one band finishes on one stage, another starts at the opposite side of the arena. Yes, they will overlap slightly, but in theory you should be able to see a bit of every band. We've also tried to mix the genres to give people more options, so if you have Classic Rock on stage one it may only clash with say, a Death Metal band on stage two, that kind of thing."

Will there be band signing tables at this years event?

"We're not sure if we will have specific signing times or tables as most of the bands are pretty cool and happy to hang out before and after their sets, but we will have a new much larger merchandise area that bands can use directly before or more likely after, their main set and then they can meet and greet afterwards, sell some merchandise and of course sign items too."

The festival has a much more Rock orientated feel this year, was this a conscious decision?

"It's funny you should say that, because I would have agreed until I started playing tracks and videos of all the bands. I think we have got a good mix from really intense Death Metal through, what I would call more traditional Metal and New wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) acts, right through to classic, bluesy rock. If you throw a couple of great party bands in the mix too, there's something for everyone! I'm actually delighted with the final line up."

Do you feel you have the right mix of unsigned smaller acts and bigger names?

"Yeah, I think we have. There is still an emphasis on the new and unsigned and in that respect I think we provide a great platform for those bands and many, genuinely, do get a boost from playing for us. But of course not all the small bands actually make much of a difference to ticket sales – which is a shame – but people want to come along and see bands they've seen before or know. All in all, though, I believe we've a good balance of acts."

wildfire festival

Talking of bands, you have exclusives from Benedictum and Diamond Head – how does it feel bringing bands of their stature at the event?

"It just shows you how far we have travelled in four short years. I've always been happy with the bands we have had in every year, and the fans have obviously felt the same because they keep coming back! Year on year, though, I feel that we've progressed and definitely moved up a level. I pinch myself most days as it is just a great feeling to see bands of this stature prepared to play in Scotland. Don't get me wrong, they genuinely want to be here and are as excited as we are, but overall massive credit must be given to all the people that work tirelessly behind the scenes, making this happen every year because they are all awesome!"

Every year you choose one band for yourself - was yours Diamond Head this year?

"Haa haa, thanks for putting me on the spot, Johnny! Seriously, though, there are a lot of bands on the line up that I really love, but if I had to name one that I just had to have it would be Tysondog. You will need to ask bass player Kevin Wynn about that one, but you're best to get him once he has had a beer or two. I'll just say it was, quite a while back and involved the Heathery Bar in Wishaw! (laughs)."

The festival has come a long way in four years – what do you see for its future?

"This may well be becoming a stock answer for me, but the reality is that the next one will only be truly on the agenda if the most recent one succeeds. By success we mean good crowds, having a great festival experience! It appears to have caught the imagination a lot more this year and of course I am planning year five already. As part of that, I've read a lot of reviews and comments about this festival or that festival, but for those in the North of the country. Ultimately the people decide they like it and support it and continue to spread the good word, we can only continue to grow. If you catch a hold of me on the Sunday night, the last night of this year's festival, you make get a nod to next year's Saturday headline act!"

On that teasing note, we part ways but it's clear that Ritchie has a firm grasp on this year's festival and with less than three weeks to go, his advice about buying your ticket as soon as you can if you're planning on going this year, is well worth heeding.

Wildfire 2015
Wiston Lodge
Millrig Road
South Lanarkshire
ML12 6HT

Main Stage Line Up (in alphabetical order):
Bad Touch
Balls Deep
Crimes Of Passion
Death Valley Knights
Diamond Head
Emperor Chungv Empire
Hellion Rising
Knock Out Kaine
Lawnmower Deth
Liberty Lies
Line Of Fire
Lord Volture
Max Raptor
Press To Meco
The Burning Crows
The Idol Dead
Tygers Of Pan Tang
Uncle Rust

CackBlabbath/RACPA Stage Line Up (in alphabetical order):
Corrupt The System
Die No More
Dog Tired
Exile The Traitor
Mason Hill
Rank Berry
Soul Remover
The Parallax Method
Thirteen Stars

Acoustic Lounge Line Up (in alphabetical order):
Adriana Spina
Dave Kerr
Jamie Brewer
The Rising Souls



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