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Ritual Fest’s Daniel Vaughan On Putting Together Festival Lineups
There’s just over a month to go until Leeds’ Ritual Festival kicks off, and with a line-up boasting a UK exclusive performance from Ihsahn alongside All Pigs Must Die, Anaal Nathrakh, Misery Index, Bossk, The Afternoon Gentlemen and many more (not to mention a pre-show with the likes of Akercocke, Fen and The Infernal Sea), it’s safe to say you’ll be wanting to get your ticket sorted pronto. We caught up with organiser Daniel Vaughan for some tips on festival organisation and his dream lineup…
How did the idea for Ritual Festival originate?
“I wanted to create something that was mine and I have a habit of aiming big from the start, as you can probably tell from the first line up, shows since and Dreadfest. I started off volunteering at venues, festivals and anywhere I could to gain experience, started to get paid for my work and noticed along the way. No one is going to help you get there and there isn’t a set route, job or school that leads to starting a festival. So I just went for it!”
The lineup is looking great, how do you decide which bands to approach, and then how do you go about getting them on board after that?
“I start from the top, a handful of bands from certain genres or unique styles as headliners and main supports, from there I curate what I think suits and add what’s missing. I got lucky last year that Full Of Hell and The Body were on tour, this year super lucky Ihsahn wanted to play. You have to earn some form of reputation and work your way up to that calibre of artist but no matter how big the band, all you have to do is send an email.”
Who are you most looking forward to seeing at the festival this year?
“Ihsahn, no doubt about it at all, can’t wait to see the other acts but I will not be doing anything during his set. Don’t care what or who it is, I’ve worked hard for over a year to see ‘Arktis’.”
Why did you decide on Leeds’ Canal Mills for the festival’s location?
“I love Damnation, every room individually is great, I just hate the [Leeds uni] layout and it’s a real struggle when you have been drinking since midday to navigate whilst it’s busy. I saw Outbreak used [Canal Mills] in 2015, the footage and feedback I heard was fantastic, went on a site visit and loved it instantly. Amazingly enough the smoking area, freedom to move and just open space is what made it for me. It’s got a real warehouse vibe and with it being a dance venue it has a good PA, we tested the Subs out with Electric Wizard’s ‘Funeralopolis’ and it delivered.
What would you say Ritual Festival offers to the UK festival circuit? How would you describe the character of the festival?
“Ritual Festival at the moment has a diverse line-up and affordable fun day out. Ritual is run by me with help from my friends, the people I have met along my journey in bands and the industry. That means no big scary suits corrupting the festival, every decision is for the benefit of Ritual and the fans. I see Ritual as an investment from all of us, I give you all the time, knowledge and money I have into it, the bands perform and ensure you have an amazing day and in turn, people buy tickets which we all benefit from through festival growth.”
The pre-show is looking awesome too, how did you decide which bands were going to play that? What do you feel the pre-show adds to the festival experience?
“We originally had Bölzer, Megan [Borman, Ritual Dreadfest organizer] had some Bölzer on and I think Kez posted about it early last year so I gave it a listen, liked it and booked it. It’s a shame we couldn’t get them in the end. I moved that weekend Ritual was on and they had already been booked that weekend. Black metal is something fairly new to me and I find it can be one fo the most immersive genres, it scares me a little how much is out there and some people’s knowledge of the music. I missed out on Akercocke at Damnation so this was my sneaky way of getting to see them, perks of the job.”
Have you thought about expanding Ritual in to a full two or even three day event?
“If all goes well this year I will be trying to do a Sat/Sun event and maybe bring the pre-show into Canal Mills. There are plenty of ideas in the works it’s just wether or not we can continue long enough to implement them all.”
What would you say are the main challenges facing up-and-coming UK festivals at the moment?
“Very, very healthy competition – look at April, there are at least seven quality festivals happening and that’s not even including the big daddy that is Roadburn. Festivals don’t make money in the first couple of years generally, through inexperience, clashes, no trust in their brand or even just the size of their acts. If you can make it past three/four years and not go bankrupt then that’s success in my eyes.”
What kind of things would you say you’ve learnt since you first started putting on shows with Ritual? Have you got any promoter horror stories you’d care to share with us?
“Don’t believe your lineup is good enough to just attract people, that naivety cost me and I learnt the hard way. Very few people are actually out there to help you, don’t trust people so easily. Errm horror stories, not really had any that have phased me, equipment breakages and driver cancellations but it’s all stuff I have dealt with before, as long as it gets sorted then it’s fine. Nothing major has gone wrong or that I can’t fix so no horror stories just yet.”
What are your ambitions for Ritual Festival?
“More stages, bands, art, films, merch. A more immersive experience for everyone, I want people to get excited over Ritual as a brand, to have that trust that I will deliver a solid line up and a good weekend. Maybe make Walter at Roadburn worry a little with some healthy compeition.”
If money, time and the icy grip of death were not a factor, what bands would comprise your perfect festival lineup?
“Emperor, Strapping Young Lad, Darkthrone, Kyuss, Metalocalypse’s Dethklok (full hologram stage show), Black Sabbath (all members ever), Nile, Converge, Electric Wizard, Sleep. I could go on forever, I have sooo many lists.”
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