Thrash Hits

June 4th, 2014

Interview: Sonisphere Festival promoter, Alan Day on Metallica, Glastonbury and cancelling a festival

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Metallica are headlining the Sunday evening of Sonisphere Festival 2014 so Raziq Rauf took a few minutes to talk to festival booker, Alan Day about the metal legends, the cancelled event of 2012 and what to look out for at Knebworth this year. You can also WIN a pair of Sonisphere tickets and a goody bag. Decent.

Alan Day has just returned from Helsinki, Finland where he and a few select individuals of the UK’s rock media (not us) visited Hietaranta Beach for the first leg of Sonisphere. It pissed it down but the first airing of Metallica By Request had “bangers all the way through so no tracks off Lulu or St Anger” and boasted a setlist including ‘Battery,’ ‘Sanitarium,’ ‘One’ and a first ever live performance of ‘The Frayed Ends of Sanity,’ which Day is very enthusiastic about. Like I said, it pissed it down on Helsinki’s very cool city beach, but it looked like this, regardless:

Yes, apparently Metallica have swapped out a bit of the insane pyro they had at Download Festival 2012 in favour of a fuckload of lasers. They’ll also have the same production set-up when they headline Glastonbury Festival at the end of June. Their appearance at the biggest music festival in the world riled some metalheads as they wondered just why Metallica should be playing for norms.

It’s since emerged that Glastonbury goers are now petitioning for the removal of Metallica from the Glasto line-up due to James Hetfield narrating a forthcoming History Channel show about hunting Kodiak bears (and therefore endorsing the wholly metal act of killing the wildest of wild animals with his bare hands (using a gun from afar)). So… nobody wants Metallica to play Glastonbury. However, the billing hasn’t irked Alan Day at all.

“I’ve been there every year and I think Metallica doing Glastonbury is a brilliant thing. I don’t think it’s detracting from Knebworth because Glasto’s sold out,” says the Knebworth event’s promoter. “To me, any opportunity this scene has to break out and attract more people into it is a good thing.”

“I think there’s a massive problem with the whole rock community being very inward and saying ‘You can’t like Metallica, you’re wearing an Oasis t-shirt.’ Why not? The same reason you might not get let in to a rock pub because you’re not looking rock enough,” he continues. “For the sake of the metal community, there might be an Arctic Monkeys fan walking past who will check them out, think it’s incredible and they might then go buy the Black album and then might buy some Alice In Chains or Iron Maiden. Let’s embrace and celebrate it.”

It’s been three years since the last Sonisphere Festival at Knebworth. After the cancellation of 2012’s event with Kiss, Faith No More and Queen featuring Adam Lambert as headliners, they took stock in 2013, waiting until this summer to re-launch the brand’s flagship event. The problem is, after all this time away, do they still have a trustworthy brand?

“I do think we lost a lot of people’s trust but I hope that people saw that we were very honest from the word go,” Alan concurs. “When we knew we had it wrong, we came out and said we’d got it wrong and said it wasn’t working.”

“I’ve got this incredible job and every day I wake up, I know I have but that means that I work my fucking guts out,” he continues. “Sometimes my job is just knowing what to do when it goes wrong as much as it is celebrating when it goes right. When we cancelled, that was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my career and the most respect I’ve ever got from my boss [former Monsters of Rock promoter, Stuart Galbraith] was over that. We knew if we were to bring it back, it had to be with something massive to regain people’s trust in our brand.”

This year’s line-up, with heavyweight headliners Metallica and Iron Maiden joined by The Prodigy and an undercard boasting the likes of Slayer, Mastodon, Alice In Chains, Deftones and Limp Bizkit, it’s arguably the strongest UK festival bill of the summer. Having such a reputable line-up heading the bill wasn’t an accident, as Alan explains how after 2011’s runaway success with giving Biffy Clyro their first major UK headline slot – a personal highlight for Day – they thought they could take more of a risk on the three headline acts in 2012. That was ultimately the festival’s downfall and it’s a lesson that they learned the hardest way possible.

Alan’s main piece of advice if you’re attending Sonisphere Festival 2014 (other than “bring your shorts”) is to check out the smaller bands because “you never know if it’s going to be one of those instances where you can say, ‘I was there.’”



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