Bloodstock 2012 Preview

With the latest instalment of the most metal festival on these shores only just around the corner, TMF scribe Dominic sat down for a little natter with three men preparing to help tear a field in Derbyshire to shreds; around the table are Behemoth’s iconic frontman Nergal, Ben Ward of Britain’s heaviest stoners Orange Goblin, and Evile guitarist extraordinaire Ol Drake.

What are your expectations and hopes for Bloodstock?

Ben: Mud bath! Seriously though, for Orange Goblin, we’re really pleased to be coming back to Bloodstock for the first time since the very first one, and to be headlining a stage is an honour for us, and we think it is a perfect slot. We see ourselves as a good-time festival band and to be headlining at that time of a Saturday night, everyone will have had a few beers and be ready to bang their heads to some good old fashioned rock and metal.

Ol: For us on the main stage, I think we are at a slot where people will have woken up a bit more; last time we played it was about 11am and you could tell everyone was a bit hung-over, but this time I expect more circle pits going, it should be really good.

Nergal: You can get people really dopey first thing in the morning because they are so tired, or you can go really late at night where they are doing the same because they are so drunk, so you just choose what’s best for you. But seriously, same story; we’re privileged considering we had to cancel two years ago and people were waiting for us. We’ve been put so high on the bill it’s a hell of a challenge, we feel honoured, happy to be back.

Is there extra pressure from headlining?

Nergal: I definitely feel it for this festival; something clicked in my brain when I was released from hospital, sure I was stressed, but then we did the tours of Europe and the US and I’d always really felt stage fright quite badly. But nowadays I’m really calm, whether it is 20,000 people at a festival, a full tent, but I enter the stage as if I’m entering my mother’s house – no stress, just very confident. Not arrogant, but very comfortable on the stage. But this festival, it gives me a bit of extra stress, headlining.

Who are you really looking forward to seeing this year?

Ben: Unfortunately we’re only around on the Saturday, so we’re going to miss the likes of Behemoth and Evile, though luckily we saw them at a festival we both did in Germany the other month; it’s disappointing as it’s one of those festivals you do like to hang around all weekend. But on the Saturday I’m looking forward to seeing Crowbar obviously, they’re good friends of ours. And then you’ve got Machine Head coming to headline a festival like this, it just proves what an enormous festival Bloodstock has become, and it’s probably the UK’s premier all-out metal festival. I don’t think there is a bad band playing on any of the stages on any of the days, so you can wander around and you are going to find something to your liking. In that respect Bloodstock’s brilliant, so I’m just looking forward to being there and seeing whoever I can. These guys will sympathise that you get stuck in a tent doing press when you’d rather be out there in the field watching bands, but these things have to be done.

Ol: I think we’re there all of Saturday and Sunday, so the likes of Testament, Crowbar, Corrosion Of Conformity… We’re just going to be there and watching everyone we can; if we’re not doing press we’re going to be out there enjoying the festival.

Nergal: I’m definitely looking forward to seeing Watain for the 50th time and Grand Magus – we’ve just finished a tour with them but I love watching them.

Ben: Grand Magus are brilliant, JB is the essence of heavy metal.

Nergal: I love this band, you say heavy metal, and this band is what heavy metal is to me. There’s a good variety on the bill, and I like that. Bloodstock grew from the extreme end of the genre, and now to have Machine Head headlining, a mainstream metal band, and Alice Cooper, a rock legend, it’s incredible. It would be a big compliment if you get a crowd that likes the extreme stuff, and also appreciates Alice Cooper.

Ben: I think there is something for everyone.

Do you ever go and check out the unsigned stage, either here or at other festivals?

Ben: I’ve played it! I played it two years ago with my other band Ravens Creed. It was bizarre, going back to year zero, starting all over again. But it was fun, grassroots sort of thing, we had a blast and that’s what it’s all about. If I get a chance this year I’ll certainly go over and check out some of the bands playing.

Ol: For us it very much was year zero, back in 2006 we headlined the unsigned stage and it just happened the label we’re on now, Earache, were there, a bit drunk – we probably sounded better than we were – and they signed us from that show. There’s always something special about Bloodstock for us because of that.

Ben: I think it’s important for festivals to have this breeding ground, those unsigned bands need an opportunity to play to people, there’s going to be labels there checking out new bands and looking to see what’s tomorrows next thing.

What are your best and worst festival memories?

Ben: Best probably comes down to the response when you play, and for me you can’t go beyond this year’s Hellfest which we just played recently. We played at ten past five in the evening and the tent we played was absolutely rammed full, people couldn’t get in the tent because it was spilling out, and that sort of thing is inspiring, it’s why you do it. It’s brilliant to come on stage and see 10,000 people really being into what you do. We’ve been lucky that there haven’t really been any low points; I guess the weather is one thing, but when you’re a band like us we’re usually in tents so the weather benefits us.

Ol: I think for us, ours is double-edged, they’re both Download last year. Fantastic show in the tent, packed to the back, no one could get in and an amazing response. But on the other side of that, the night before I drank too much gin and I thought I’d be able to recover; so it was a great show, but it was also terrible as I couldn’t move basically, I didn’t anticipate how long it would take for me to get over that.

Nergal: Best and worst experience are actually the same, when we played at Metalfest in about 2009; we’re about to go onstage at 8pm I think and the weather had been nice during the day, but just as we were about to hit the stage people were reporting to me that black, not dark but really black, clouds were gathering overhead. The second song in the set was ‘Demigod’, and I usually introduce the song that there is no god but a human being, and at this very moment the skies just opened up, God is literally just pissing on us. My heart was close to exploding as I could see people going absolutely nuts, really frenzied in the rain, like someone had turned the tap on. But slowly this amp would go, and then the next, guitars cut out, pedalboards underwater… we were actually risking getting electrocuted. We played until there was just no sound, we played as long as we could, and the drummer was still drumming! We’ve played loads of really good shows since then, but people come to me and say “that show at Metalfest… I’ll never forget it”. It was a great memory, and one of the best moments in our career ever, two songs only. And also the fastest money I ever made!

Bloodstock takes place 9-12th August at Catton Hall in Derbyshire.

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