Terrorizer Speaks To ‘kin Hell Fest Organiser In An Exclusive Interview

By on 31 January 2014


Leeds’ ‘kin Hell Fest has gone from strength to strength over the past few years, and the forthcoming edition of the fest is boasting the best lineup yet, promising the likes of Napalm Death, Anaal Nathrakh, Lock Up, Pentagram Chile and Wodensthrone to this year’s lucky punters.

With the amount of awesome UK metal fests growing by the year, it can be hard to guarantee a good turn out, let alone establish yourself as a force to be reckoned with on the festival circuit, but ‘kin Hell Fest seem to well on their way. We decided to catch up with festival organiser Paul Priest to discuss the origins of ‘kin Hell Fest, the challenges that face new UK festivals, and the danger of clashes…

How did the idea for ‘kin Hell Fest originate?
Paul Priest: “Well, myself and the friends / team that have now all joined forces for ‘kHF have been playing in bands and putting on gigs, clubs and all dayers for a long time. After a bit of a hiatus from promoting, I just wanted to put on an all dayer that brought together some of the best of the current UK bands, so in 2011 we assembled a fair mint line up, with Ingested, The Afternoon Gentlemen, Foetal Juice, The Atrocity Exhibit, Ninkharsag, Colonel Blast, Astrohenge, Khuda, Wizard’s Beard, Oblivionized, my own mob Diascorium, Skull Branded Pirates and local now defunct bunch Decayed Messiah all playing. We kept it cheap, tenner in, we kept it fun (air guitars, loads of shots, bands that pretty much all knew each other) and the atmosphere was pretty mental. People traveled from all over including a few friends from Ireland, Spain, Scotland and Wales, plus plenty more out of Leeds towners.

2011-all-dayer---videos“The name ‘kin Hell Fest just sounds proper northern and our daft take on Hell Fest, so thought it would be a funny thing to promote just in our area, the further afield we’ve managed to flyer and push it, the more the light hearted nature was appreciated. It almost doesn’t even matter what something is called, so long as the line ups are good, you could call something ‘CheeselephantstickrampustuffFest’ if you like, just make it mint and a good price *makes a note of that name for next year…*

“In hindsight though, I am really glad we didn’t call it that, and stuck with ‘kin Hell, which was generally the phrase when something pretty outlandish, awesome or crazy happened!

“We keep the idea of it simple, all the bands are bands that we genuinely like, nobody is playing because they’re ‘the cool band’ or will get us points for including or anything like that, although, in our opinion, every band on there is cool and bloody awesome, whether that counts for anything. Each band brings something good to the table, all have done the rounds too in their own area / style, so deserve to get on a ‘bigger fest’ as we are now being called.

“We also prefer mixed bills and try to bring a collection of bands together that will complement each other. It’s great when someone comes along and says, for example, that they’re mostly into death metal but loved the grind, black, thrash or even more chilled instrumental band that they just saw. If some of the people there, or that we talk to, find bands they wouldn’t normally hear about, then job done.

“I think on the whole, the general metal crowd is way more open minded than a) most people give them credit for and b) than they were say, even, 5-10 years ago. I think that is, in part, due to magazines like yourselves and Zero Tolerance being more open to talking about loads of different genres / subgenres of music, and a few promoters / festivals being more open to do mixed bills. For nearly 20 years of putting on gigs, that’s always how I’ve done things. I think also with the amount of bands mashing up styles, the lines are more blurred between genres and people overlap into finding other stuff without even realising it. We are certainly all about supporting ‘the little bands’, the underground, the part of the scene that is more important than the rest and is so often unfortunately (by its very nature) overlooked.”

The lineup is looking killer so far! How do you decide which bands to approach, and then how do you go about getting them on board after that?
Paul: “Thank you, I have to admit I am really proud of what we’ve managed to put together. Each band is someone that we genuinely love, in our team, in our friends’ circles, so if that then translates well to the general masses, then amazing. We have gone out on a limb really this year, and really gone for it with some of the names we’ve asked, but we are definitely proud to have got the likes of Napalm Death, Lock Up, Pentagram Chile, Anaal Nathrakh, (plus more huge names to come!), Birdflesh (first time in the UK since 2006), Khuda (who had been on pretty much a permanent hiatus but managed to convince them back to play for us), Hawk Eyes (great to see them having some incredible successes since the last time we put them on as Chickenhawk). I do love the fact though that we have ‘smaller’ names like Gets Worse, Famine, Esoteric Youth, Monolithian, Death Tripper etc amongst the legends, putting them all on the same stage as them, where they deserve to be. They’re not really actually small bands, but you know what I mean.

2013-festival---videos“Simply it just starts as a huge list and we whittle it down as best we can. Last year’s line up of 35 bands started out as around 250 (maybe you can see why we aren’t too vocal for band applications, there’s already plenty we want to try and accommodate), and I basically started off trying to get the first dozen bands on the list that I considered would have made a great all dayer in its own right, and we as a team did similar this year. Of course, we have bands that we would think ‘It would be incredible if we could get so and so, or what about them..’ and after the names that got associated with us in 2013, we thought, well, why not. Worth an ask. Some of the bands for 2014 were in progress since before the 2013 festival! This time around though, I think now we are a little more established, we are seen as more of a major festival. It’s great to feel on the map now.

“Work on some of the bands for 2015 has already begun because we know how much planning it can take, especially when sealing exclusives, and we’d be keen on getting straight on with announcements for it providing this one does as well as we are sure it can. Fingers crossed we can pull off what is on the cards. I think there’ll be a few floor bound jaws if we can manage it.”

Why did you decide on Leeds for the festival’s location?
Paul: “That’s where I’m from. Taxis home afterwards are cheaper!

“That said though, Leeds is an incredible city for music, for people being into all sorts of music, and in recent years, support for the metal scene in general has got incredibly strong again. It went through a very bad patch but is now more potent than ever.

“‘kin Hell Fest has been involved this last six months or so in putting together things in other cities though, trying to take some of the mixed bill, total carnage and loads of fun aspects to other people. We put on the Byker Grave all dayer in Newcastle with the massive help of friends, Bro(UK) Promotions and Omega Warfare Records, after the Northern Darkness sadly bit the dust (prematurely I am certain, they would have sold that out I am sure). Byker Grave was a silly day, and already there are plans for BG2015. Recently we also put on another all dayer, this time in Liverpool, with an equally daft monicker of Show No Mersey, which again went down a storm, the turn out was amazing and 2015 is on the cards too, that was with the help of Joe Cancerous Womb / Neuroma and Sal from Whiplash. Mike from Cancerous Womb is putting on their album launch in Edinburgh in February (22nd) and we’re offering some promo help for that, he’s put together an awesome line up up there, and we’re happy to be shouting about that one too, as it fits the fun and awesome riffs criteria that we support.

“May as well say Cancerous Womb again.. just because! They were immense at ‘kHF2013 and even did an Acoustic Womb set after headliners Rompeprop had played!

“Basically, it’s just a bunch of mates helping each other out, how it should be. No competitions, no one-up-manship, just people all on the same page wanting to put some fun gigs / all dayers on around the country.”

What would you say ‘kin Hell Fest offers to the UK festival circuit?
Paul: “We can guarantee that, above all else, there will be a lovely time, with great bands. Most of the gigs and all dayers are like mini reunions too, with friendly bands and people from all over the place who might not get chance to see each other very often all being assembled in a room together. We also try and keep things as cheap as possible. In 2013 it was our undoing a little bit, but the atmosphere, reactions and support from everyone made it worth it, and was a learning curve too I suppose. We’re not some big corporate festival, we’re just a bunch of (sometimes daft) people who just want to have a laugh but are well organised enough to put something a bit out of the ordinary and big on. We’ve all been involved in the music promoting scene one way or another for a lot of years. We can certainly guarantee that you will find some new favourite bands on the line ups, that you wouldn’t have ordinarily checked out. Oh, and the sound will be massive too!”

It’s a competitive market for festivals at the moment. With Northern Darkness Festival announcing its cancellation, and up-and-coming fests like Temples gaining a lot of traction, have you been at all worried about the turnout for ‘kin Hell Fest?
Paul: “I think the supposed competition has (probably naturally) made us up our game even more. We had to put something special on really, I feel like, whilst there are, in total, four other (awesome) festivals going on the same weekend in the UK and in Holland, that we’ve put ourselves up there with the best of them, looking at some of the comments around the net and from folks out there, up there with the best of them throughout the whole year too, not just that weekend, I feel like we’ve managed to stamp our own unique take on things. I think when people saw the big names getting dropped in, they actually took time to look at the rest of the line up, and realise it’s pretty hefty all the way through, consistently mint bands (live and on record) right down to the openers. We haven’t tried to make it a competition to be honest though, we’ve just had to do the best we can, find the best bands we can and just chat nonsense with anyone who joins in on our banter on the pages.

“The likes of Bloodstock and Damnation, and to an extent even something huge and up a different street like Download shows that there is definitely enough room for a few more UK metal / rock festivals, even if they end up on the same weekend. There’s no reason why what we’ve put together won’t appeal to fans of the most underground kvlt nekro festival put on in a biscuit tin or to the masses who go to Download.  There are tens of thousands of people into the metal and related stuff in each of the separate countries in the UK alone, we just have to make sure each and every one of them knows about ‘kin Hell Fest. I will admit to being gutted seeing the other festivals announcing their dates and line ups after we posted our first set of 10 bands, but we’d already changed our dates once to avoid a clash with a huge tattoo convention (Leeds International Tattoo Exposition, May 24/25) that one of our team is involved with, so we had to stick to our guns. It is a massive shame, but I think the way the line up has evolved, especially in the last month or so, has made a lot of people sit up and take note of what we are doing, which is mainly all we can hope for.”


What would you say are the main challenges facing up-and-coming UK festivals at the moment?
Paul: “I guess there are a lot of people with their hearts in the right place, but not the knowledge, organisation and money to do this. It’s a huge undertaking, and, whilst we had to deal with a lot of problems in 2013 that weren’t of our making as well (venue not equipped to deal with a massive drinking and eating metal crowd, and not providing a few other things how they said they would), we also learned quite a lot and quickly from our naivety of stepping up from doing loads of all dayers, even tours between us. There’s a world of difference, especially if the venue isn’t fully equipped already with everything you might need to put something like this on.

“I’d say as well, if you are lone promoter, or there is just a couple of you, don’t be too proud to get help. Get a team of people arranged beforehand. Unless you have no job, no family, no other things really going on, you won’t be able to organise something of this magnitude on your own. That was my own personal naivety for 2013, and whilst I wasn’t totally on my own, I did try and take on a vast majority of it, and it won’t work. Surround yourself with some good friends in the organisation of the festival, people up for helping, people who will support, people you can call on to run errands, favours, be your staff for the week. I’d like to now extend thanks already to everyone who is involved in ‘kHF 2014, there’s an awesome team of people, volunteers, tech people who will make every aspect a much better, easier experience for all. I am the vocal chords I suppose, but they’re the rest of the body, keeping it running (or some other bizarre analogy!)

“A couple of things I would like to include in this though, is urging the public out there to, once they’ve decided what festival, all dayer, gig they are going to, to get tickets as soon as they can, especially if foreign bands or the really big UK bands are involved, just to help the promoter that bit more. With bigger bands comes having to pay deposits, paying for flights up front and other things to consider. Of course, if tickets are bought whilst a line up is being announced, then the chances of getting even bigger bands or plenty more foreign bands open up, so, please, support your promoter. Most promoters do this for the love of it all, the excitement of bringing different bands to your town or city, and the chance of seeing those bands when ordinarily you wouldn’t, is enough for them, but, they, we can only keep doing this if people put the same amount of effort in going to support the gigs. Seriously, any share, any tag of a friend, any flyer taken and passed on, it helps, all of it helps, and it literally takes seconds to support your scene, the gig, the bands, the people behind it all, and each like and share and tag is a bigger help than you might realise.

“I guess the other thing I’d like to use this opportunity for, is to ask the promoters of the other festivals going on at this time to get together in email and work out when everyone else is looking to do their 2015 editions, because, in all honesty, the clashes over the weekend in question is pretty insane, FIVE (at least) good festivals going on, and whilst I still have no doubt that all of them, so long as they push what they are doing properly, can sell out / break even / make there be enough people there for it to be worth it, the clashes are a pretty detrimental thing. For a lot of years, I have actively tried to find out when there were other gigs going on in and around the Leeds area, because for a long time, Leeds was suffering an almighty amount of clashes, often 3 or 4 gigs in one night in related styles of music would be happening, and that splits audiences too much. With festivals costing a fair amount of money and being something that takes a year (or more!) in planning, it’s hard enough as it is.

“So, to the folks at Temples, Neurotic, Rad and 0161, my email address is paulrawnerve@gmail.com… Please email me and let’s sort this out so none of us clash next year. I understand why the bank holiday was a popular one to go for, I am happy for us to not have the bank holiday weekend if it means we can put our festival on without worry of so many other things going on, hopefully you all feel the same. In fact, any other UK festival people who do stuff around this time, Desertfest mainly and any other independent ones, get in touch, let’s try and avoid the clashes as much as we can!”

What are your ambitions for ‘kin Hell Fest?
Paul: “To be able to keep doing what we’re doing really, that can only happen if the support continues to grow and we get a full room in 2014 (no reason why we can’t with the line up we are ecstatic about!). The basic premise we are totally happy with, bringing together some of the biggest bands of the metal / underground music scene with some of the upcoming bands who, in their more regional scenes are still considered some of the best. To keep up the diversity of the line ups, and to keep the prices down as much as we can, plus, to simply keep doing things our way. I feel we can offer something unique to everyone.

yorkshire“It would be great if the ‘kHF name was known to all the metallers around the UK and into Europe, hey, even the rest of the world. Our line up this year has actually massively started that ball rolling, the shares, likes and followers on Facebook spread ludicrously and into far flung reaches of the world, the amazing responses we’ve had whilst flyering all over the place so far. It’s a great start, and something we are definitely intent on building on. When we announced Napalm Death, there were tens of thousands of views all over the place, thousands of shares and likes, when I flyered at the recent Lamb of God / Decapitated gig in Leeds, there were people chanting Napalm Death in the queue, and tons of other comments of ”kin Hell! Look who’s playing!’, referring to the likes of Lock Up, Ingested, Acrania, Crepitation, Deviated Instinct, plenty more. Nice to see the whole line up is being appreciated at every stage so far.

“The festival we look up to (well, me personally anyway) is Obscene Extreme, that started from the humble beginnings on the back of a truck to a few hundred people, now doing four festivals a year around the world with massive turn outs and an incredible reputation, for fun, for great line ups of bands from all over the world of all sizes. I’m not really saying we want to take it THAT far, for doing so many all over the world, but, it would be pretty cool to be considered as a main, established festival in the yearly calendar. I guess, to a smaller degree, we are doing a UK tour of sorts, with Byker Grave, Show No Mersey, our own warm up all dayer Yorkshire Riffer on April 26th (that has kinda taken on a life of its own as well, well happy with how the line up for that has come together too!) and then the main festival at the end of it all (May 2, 3 and 4 if you need any reminders!).

“Back to Obscene, I first went to OEF in 2004. It was me, my wife and a mate, that was pretty much it out of our circles and there was about 2000 people there, already something pretty special and awesome but nothing compared to the immense creature it is now and deserves to be. Curby has done wonders for the world grind / extreme music scene and is a jolly nice chap at that, so, every success is welcome for them. We recommended it to loads of our friends, some who weren’t even particularly into grind / extreme metal, but they went and still had such a laugh, we ended up going another 7 times out of the following 8 years. That is the epitome of what I hope ‘kin Hell Fest will be seen as. It doesn’t matter so much what version of metal / alternative / heavy music that people are into, they should just come and have a party!”

For more information, you can visit the official ‘kin Hell Fest website, or follow the fest on Facebook and Twitter. Tickets for this year’s edition are available here.

About Kez Whelan

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