Interview With Simon Hall (Beholder & Bloodstock Booking Agent).

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With the final of the Bloodstock Metal 2 The Masses Ireland now behind us, OVERDRIVE sat down with the larger than life personality and crusader for all things “Metal” Simon Hall, to discuss this year’s Bloodstock Festival as well the upcoming BEHOLDER Irish tour later this year. Find out more from the man himself.

It’s a Saturday afternoon in Dublin’s City centre and as the hustle and bustle of the Irish capital goes about their business, there are 6 Metal bands pacing the worn floorboards in the iconic Fibber Magees Rock & Metal bar ahead of their performance tonight at the official Bloodstock Metal 2 The Masses Ireland final. The man that decides which band will be joining the stellar line up at this years festival is none other than Mr. Simon Hall. A true activist in our beloved Metal scene, Simon has many roles as the front-man for Beholder , Bloodstock booking agent and stage production manager for the Sophie Lancaster, New Blood & Jägermeister stages. On top of all of that, he just so happens to be one of the most down to earth and solid guys you will ever meet in this fucked up business!

OVERDRIVE: How excited are you about the Dublin angle of the final of Metal to the Masses (MTTM) tonight?

SIMON: Well the tour kicked off last night (May 8th) in Belfast. It was the first time ever that took place in Northern Ireland, and to be quite honest, it was off the hook. But it’s always been acknowledged that here, in Dublin, it was gonna be a step up from what it was last year. Last year with you guys, it was off the fucking charts mate. People are still talking about it now! The last 12 months have flown by, and now we have to go and do it all over again.

OD: Have you been keeping tabs on the Dublin angle of the competition?

SH: Well, to be honest, I try to avoid checking out the bands. But that said, it’s been really difficult not to, because they’ve been so active in the promotion. Whether it’s a short video of guys ripping their t-shirts off saying “I’m comin’ to get ya!”, or any of the bands pushing this, it’s been really good. And I’m gonna be dead honest with you here, it’s only the second year that Ireland has taken M2TM on board, and it has taken over from many of the main UK based locations on the level of promotion. It’s pushing the boundaries of it.

OD: With big festivals in the UK like Download and Sonishpere booking really big bands like Metallica and Slipknot and if money and time were not an obstacle, who is the biggest band you’d like to see take to the stage at Bloodstock?

SH: Oh man, Sabbath! Sabbath definitely! It wouldn’t be Rammstein because that sounds like too much of a headache. It would always be Black Sabbath. But yet, that’s like, just thinking outside the box. We’d have to be an extremely large festival to be able to do that. I guess that’s the kind of beautiful thing about Bloodstock, is that we are the size we are. It’s comfortable for the fans, for the bands, and it’s genuinely got a family vibe about it. We’ve never gone down the commercial route; we’ve never chased commerciality in order to build the festival. We’ve always been a festival that’s grown organically, in little steps. I think that is why the longevity of Bloodstock is a mainstay really, But Black Sabbath man yeah. But I’d have to put a caveat on that; it would have to have Bill Ward on that because otherwise it doesn’t count!

OD: Since we’re on the topic of preferred bands, what band that isn’t with us anymore, for whatever reason, would you like to have had play at Bloodstock?

SH: (Long pause) Oh fuckin’ hell! Erm… That’s fuckin’ brilliant, that is… err… ok for me, back in the day, Lynyrd Skynyrd back when they were Skynyrd was something special. I really liked that. I’m an old-school fucker, that’s more my thing.SH2 NO! – whilst we’re at it, let’s pull Zeppelin back together while we’re here! We might as well – let’s get Zeppelin back together. So basically for 2016, we’re gonna reform Led Zeppelin, and we’re gonna get Black Sabbath back together! (Laughs) I’d write it like: “Dear Sir: I’m writing this email to you with a request, because this guy in Ireland put this idea in my head, therefore I’m writing to you!”

OD: Your band, Beholder have also played in the past at Bloodstock. Now, I’ve seen what you do – it’s obvious that you love what you do, but when a gig is nearly over at the festival for you, do you ever think “Shit, now I gotta go to work!”?

SH: It’s kind of a misnomer really. Like, what is my work? Well I work at Bloodstock 24/7, or I’m working with bands. I’m kinda lucky really. A lot of people don’t know this, but I was in the building trade for fucking centuries, and I was crippling myself laying bricks and spreading plaster or something. Generally, I’d just do what I could, but with the fair grace of my wife Rachel, she said “Look you’re not enjoying this, you enjoy music all the time”, and Bloodstock was happening too, so I do work music 24/7 which is kinda cool. So if I’m coming to the end of a set, and wonder if I’ve got a day job in the morning? It doesn’t come into the fray really. I mean, don’t get me wrong: the music industry has the capability of giving you some incredible high points, but it can be really tedious as well, dealing with fucking idiots. I mean, it is littered with fucking numpties. And they all call me a numpty as well. It’s all swings and roundabouts really.

OD: Has there ever been a really big band you tried to get for Bloodstock in the past, but for one reason or another, it just didn’t happen?

SH: Without naming names, yeah there have been a few alright. Whether it be for silly things logistical routing, or they just can’t get there, or maybe it could be because of agents, management etc., or a band asking for too much money; there’s always 1 or 2 bands that we still keep clambering for. I don’t think I’d be talking out of line if I said we want Judas Priest for Bloodstock. We want Judas Priest for Bloodstock! We also think that Twisted Sister’s final ever tour in the UK would be good.

We think that would be the best thing in the world. They played the year Ronnie (James Dio) died, because we had Heaven and Hell booked on the Friday, and Twisted Sister finished on the Sunday. And mate, it was one of the greatest fucking shows in the time I’ve been working there! Like, Twisted Sister are one of these bands like, they never compromise, they never took a side route or anything; they just, it’s balls-out rock n’ roll! I love it- I fucking love it. I’d love to see them bow out in the UK at Bloodstock – I think that would be something special.

OD: Beholder are due to play in Dublin this summer. Can you give us a hint of the setlist, and can you PLEASE tell me that ‘Holy Diver’ will be in your set!?

SH: Hahaha! No mate, sorry! No ‘Holy Diver’…. Sorry – there’s no covers in the set, and I’ll tell you why: we have a new album out hopefully October/November this year. If not, it’s gonna be early 2016. Because we’ve only been over in Ireland once before supporting Scar Symmetry, we wanna introduce people to a whole wide spectrum of the first 2 albums and what we’ve got coming up. We’re playing in Limerick, in Dublin as part of The Unleashed Festival and in Belfast (see the details here), so we wanna make sure people get the whole spectrum of what’s going on. So no ‘Holy Diver’ I’m afraid. Yeah because the video for that looks brilliant!

Oh man when I watched that back I got a lump in my throat. I couldn’t believe it. He (Dio), was such a spirit. I was very lucky on many occasions, that, not only did I meet him when he played at Sweden Rock, where we sat down and drank a beer, but he was one of those people who were as interested in learning as much as he could about me- you know what? He actually came up to me when I was managing a band called Blackfoot at the time, and introduced himself with his hand out! He goes “Hi my name is Ronnie Dio.” I’m looking at him, going: ”Ronnie, please: I’ve got EVERYTHING you’ve ever done! I am not worthy!”

Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to share a bottle of wine with Mark Lakerfeld, and we sat there after catching Catch the Rainbow at Bloodstock, and we sat there with tears in our eyes, both talking about Dio. And that was a bit special. And also spending time with the band like, Simon Wright (AC/DC), and Craig Goldy. I’ve managed to talk to those guys on numerous occasions, because for me, Dio was the singer that did everything. He could energise you and make you wanna throw the horns in the air, but in saying that, he could sing Catch the Rainbow, and he could make you fuckin’ cry. He broke your heart. He was the ultimate professional, and every time I saw him, God knows how many times, but I never saw him and went “mehh”. The guy was just relentlessly brilliant.

OD: Let’s go back to the start: What was it for you that turned you in to rock music and metal? Was it a group or a particular song?

SH: Well I’m a little older than you, I dunno if you can tell (laughs), but it would have to be Black Sabbath back in the day. Like, I was into Deep Purple from the Rainbow days, but Ozzy and Black Sabbath for me, back in the day. I think it was albums like Sabotage that really opened my eyes and made me go “FUCKIN’ HELL!!”. From a little gramophone player, all of a sudden, out comes these un-earthly rattles and noises, making me go “Yeaaahhhhh!” I think one of the earliest live performances for me was Iron Maiden in 1983. They were with a band called The Rods. They were an American 3-piece, almost like ZZ Top, and heavy as fuck. You know, just those live experiences, seeing Iron Maiden on the Killers tour just going “what the fuck???”
Heavy Metal, I try and explain to people what it’s like, and it’s weird. If you took a beachball, say that the whole of music in this world represents a beachball, heavy metal is the size of a fuckin’ tennis ball in comparison to everything else… it is so fucking small. But metal generates more passion, more interest, more fervour, more debate, and intensity than any other kind of music can. The whole problem with the pop industry or whatever you wanna call it, is that it just spews artists out, with total disregard and no concern whatsoever for their development. It’s just a case of spitting bile out, and it’s just fuckin’ money. And if they fuck up – think about Pink Floyd when they first started out: the first 3 albums were flops. But they had belief in the band and their music, and a few albums down the road, it’s Dark Side of the Moon – the biggest selling album of all fucking time!

OD: Have you always worked in music? Did you ever dip your toe in any other career areas?

SH: Oh god, yeah. I don’t speak of this too often, but I went to Drama College – I was an Evergreen actor at one point. I wanted to be an actor. It was one of those careers where the old man would give me that wistful look out of the corner of the eye and go “alright it’s time to grow up now”. So I managed the building trade, which is what he was in. I was a builder for many many years, but after that I said no – the money is shit, working in the freezing cold is shit and I loved music. So now I’m in the music industry. It’s passion man, and that’s what M2TM is about: passion.

OD: I remember last year, you raffled a BOA ticket and said that you would hand deliver a crate of beer to the winner’s tent. Can we expect the same tonight?

SH: Oh yeah we’re gonna do it again tonight. We’re raffling away a ticket. Can you name another major festival who will personally deliver a case of Hobgoblin beer to your fucking tent? Or meet you at the gate and give it to you? It happened for the first time last night, where I spoke to the guy that won it. He looked at me and he said “are you seriously gonna bring a case of fucking beer to my tent?” And I said to him: “look at me: would I lie to you about beer?” He said “no, you wouldn’t”.
So what this raffle is, is it isn’t a money grabbing raffle. It helps to pay for the transport because believe it or not, the New Blood Stage, as big as it is, and it’s growing exponentially; it’s still a loss of labour for us. Like, New Blood doesn’t sell tickets by its own volition. It’s not a crowd puller, but it’s a crowd pleaser. People can come away going “I checked out bands from Ireland, UK, Scandinavia, all over the place, and I fucking love them. The thing is, for me, being in a band as well, I’ve seen how things can progress and regress in the music industry, I remember back in the day, record companies would have A&R men, who would go to gigs all the time and get the crème de la crème. That doesn’t happen anymore. Nowadays, it’s all about looking at fucking Facebook pages or something, which is utter bollocks. It’s bullshit. It’s about the look in a guy’s eye. It doesn’t matter if they’re the most polished band ever. If you look at a band you can tell that they’re on it – they want it. It doesn’t matter if they have a cool video that Mum and Dad paid for. That doesn’t mean shit to me. It’s about that live performance, that interaction with a crowd, that show. It’s about the skill base that allows you to deliver a great performance.

OD: What can we expect at BOA this year?

SH: Well it’s just gonna be bigger and better! Well, OK when I say bigger, I don’t mean we’ll have….fuckin’…. Behemoth’s fuckin’ stilt walkers or some shit like that, but year on year, what we try and do is, we work tirelessly to make sure there is a family vibe. Bloodstock_20152-449x600It’s like the gathering. You have these hordes of Metal-Heads coming from all around the world, and just raise it up. That’s what we do. We look out for that. We get a lot of flak from keyboard warriors of this world asking why have you booked Trivium? Why Within Temptation? Well I’ll tell you why mate: whether you like them bands or not, I would rather bring in that younger generation of fans, who have never been to Bloodstock before, who went to more commercial festivals, and basically walk out after a weekend’s experience of seeing Death, Overkill, Black Label Society. These kids can go – “it took us 2 minutes to walk from stage 1 to stage 2 to stage 3, and at the end of the day we walked out with more money in our pockets because the beer is cheaper! It’s integral as to why this festival works. It’s run by genuinely good people who genuinely love music.

OD: Any messages for the people that are going to the festival?

SH: Make sure you’re there, and get in line and buy me a fucking beer!

Bloodstock Open Air Festival takes place from August 6th – 9th with performances from Rob Zombie, Trivium, Opeth, Within Temptation, Death, Nuclear Assault, Overkill, Cannibal Corpse, Sepultura, Mordred and loads more.

Words: Shaun Martin

Simon Hall Photos: Steve Dempsey @ Down The Barrel Photography

This interview originally appeared in Overdrive online magazine. For more details, click HERE!


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