Simon Hall interview: all things M2TM!

With this years anticipated Bloodstock Open Air Festival only two months away, and the big guns, DOWN, EMPEROR and MEGADETH (among others) announced, there is still the matter of who will fill the bill for the New Blood Stage.

This is where the superb METAL 2 THE MASSES competition comes in. The winner from each regional final wins a spot at B-O-A on the New Blood Stage, and all the exposure opportunities it brings… not to mention the possibility of a spot at METAL CAMP, Slovenia, or WACKEN OPEN AIR, Germany!

We reviewed the Devon and Cornwall regional final here

We also dispatched Connor Flello to catch up with M2TM co-ordinator and judge (not to mention BEHOLDER vocalist, and RAZORLINE MUSIC manager), Simon Hall.

They exchanged pleasantries, and then got straight to it.

CF:      So, it’s Metal To The Masses time again. You’ve been running it for seven years now. It started off, in 2008, as five regional finals, this year, it’s 22 and reaching beyond the mainland.

SH:      Well, this year, we’re out into Ireland. We’ve got Latvia (which is a new one) on board, and Norway is back on board as well.

Next year we’re going to be going out further afield to mainland Europe: we’re looking at Germany and France etc. Basically, we think it’s really important that a festival such as Bloodstock leads the way with relation to looking out for unsigned bands, breaking bands, DIY bands, however you want to put it. We need to support the new-blood bands of tomorrow, because I think if we give them a platform to nurture them and give them an opportunity then it’s going to pay dividends in the long run, not only for the festival, but for the music scene in general. That’s why we do it.

CF:      With the expansion in mind, how far do you think you’ll be able to take it? Are you looking to go outside of Europe?

SH:      Yeah, why not? I mean the fact of the matter is Bloodstock has always been of a notion that we do everything nice and slowly. You know, don’t throw loads of money at stuff and expect it to, all of a sudden, flourish into something bigger than it really is. At the end of the day, we’ll do it year on year.

Yeah, why not? I mean if you look at Wacken, they have what’s called the Metal Battle and that’s worldwide now; that’s taken in the Asians the Scandinavians, Europeans and the Americans. So why not? This country is as relevant as the next so yeah, we’ll keep hunting and searching and finding the best bands we can, worldwide.

CF:      Worldwide?

SH:      Who knows? I mean, as I say, everything’s year by year, slowly, slowly, catchy monkey and, at the end of the day, we’ll just take our time and we’ll just get it right. It’s down to the acceptance of the bands, and it’s down to the support of the fans as well.

CF:      Over the years, Bloodstock has grown in popularity, often cited as the ‘true British Heavy Metal festival’. Is this reflected in the popularity of Metal to the Masses?

SH:      Yeah, the first year I started, seven years ago, it was difficult to sell the concept that venues and promoters look out for unsigned bands and we come along and choose them, but now it’s not so much, especially as we’re looking at taking it further afield. The prizes for these bands are huge. Not only do they get to play at Bloodstock, which is the prize in itself, but, some of the bands are viewed again, with the possibility of playing Metal Camp or Wacken. There’s a whole bunch of different things, it’s not just a case that we run the competition and then we forget about them. Far from it! We run the competition and then keep pushing them, giving guidance and help where we can.

CF:      Would you say there is a lot more interest in the underground music scene than there has been before?

SH:      I think there’s always been an appreciation and a reverence for breaking bands but, the fact of the matter is, now, the whole concept of being an unsigned band is far further reaching, because the concept of having a record label now, as well as having a record deal, is a non-descript thing to be honest… unless you’re signed to a massive label that’s going to plough loads of money behind you.

A lot of the labels are struggling, and a lot of bands can do it themselves. A band will get the best out of promoting itself and the best out of recording itself, etc, so the whole concept of ‘unsigned’ is bit of a misnomer really because we kind of think that’s the lower level of bands when actually there are so many bands nowadays that are playing some of the big festivals of the world that are actually unsigned, they’re not signed to a major label, and that’s got to be a good thing in my book. Definitely.

CF:      With bands doing it for themselves, would you say that’s better now, to have that new approach to the industry?

SH:      Absolutely! It’s refreshing. It takes me back to the 80’s punk feel, when everyone was doing fanzines and demos. DIY is such a brilliant thing because you’ve got no restrictions, you’ve got no suits and businessmen looking over you saying, ‘We need you to sell the next album, otherwise you’re done!’ Fuck that! Creativity comes from mistakes… It comes from expression and that’s what being a DIY band, for me, is all about and I think that’s brilliant. No boundaries.

CF:      Was changing the name of what was the Unsigned Stage to New Blood stage at Bloodstock is a reflection of that change in today’s music industry?

SH:      I think New Blood in terms of Bloodstock was more of a branding thing really, as much as anything else. ‘The Unsigned Stage’ kind of sounds a little flat to me compared to the ‘New Blood Stage’. I think it sounds a lot better but I think it was just a marketing thing.

CF:      Any last words for some unsigned bands?

SH:      Don’t give up, and don’t take shit off anybody. Don’t compromise your music in search of getting a record deal because it’ll come back and it’ll fucking haunt you. Be true to yourselves and be true to your music. Keep going, keep plodding on, and keep banging your head against the wall. It’ll come right in the end.

CF:      And to the fans?

SH:      So long as they are not sitting at home on Facebook, saying that they support the scene, and are instead actually getting of their arses, spending a fiver to come and actually have a look at these bands, throwing their horns up in the air and getting on with it, that’s the important thing. Bands will only get better if we support them, end of story.

CF:      End of story, end of chat! Thank you, Simon.

SH:      Thank you, brother.

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