Becky Laverty of Pioneer Music Press talks about Damnation: the past, present and the future

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words: Elena Mara Reed, 2016-10-25

Becky Laverty works in music (more precisely, metal) full time. She is the publicist of Pioneer Music Press and handles press and communication for Roadburn and Damnation festivals. To discuss the latter one I caught up with her and also Gavin McInally (for the very first question, as he has been there from the beginning) to talk about the upcoming Damnation (5th of November!!!), it's origins and the future.

This is the 12th Damnation.  What did inspire you to start Damnation?

Gav: Bowling for Soup being booked for Download Festival for second year running. It was frustrating that there were so many great UK bands around who weren't being booked while Bowling For Soup were showing up twice. Ironically, the idea to do a show was hatched on the Download forums, with a group of guys hoping to book a couple of bands for a pub show.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

The festival started with two stages. Now there are 4: Jägermeister, Terrorizer, Eyesore Merch and The 4th Stage.  Are you ever thinking of extending into 2 or even 3 day event? I know a lot of people would love that! 

Becky: We did float the idea a couple of years back but were actually quite surprised that the general response was that a lot of people prefer a one day event. We have people of all ages coming to Damnation, but we found there were quite a lot of parents who like the idea of not having to offload their kids for the whole weekend, and across the various age ranges, a one day event keeps the cost down in terms of accommodation etc. I guess it's never entirely off the table, but at the moment the one-day format works well.



What are the bands that you are most looking forward to see this year?

Becky: Cult of Luna with Julie Christmas - I've seen CoL an awful lot, but this will be quite a special show I think! I also think Darkher is going to be amazing - Jayn has an incredible voice and a spellbinding presence, which I think will provide a bit of a change of pace for a lot of people at Damnation. But you can't argue with the likes of Electric Wizard, Enslaved, Black Tusk, Bossk, and I want to see what Abbath is up to these days! 

...and who is responsible for the line-up selection?

Becky: We talk about it amongst ourselves a lot, and there's a lot of going back and forth between Gavin, Paul and various booking agents. It was common knowledge that Gav had a wish list for years that consisted entirely of Bolt Thrower, and once he bagged them, there was some concern (mostly from me, admittedly) that he would refuse to get out of bed for anyone less than Bolt Thrower. But somehow he's managed it, and has put together an awesome line up again this year. 

we truly believe in supporting underground and upcoming bands and including them on the bill is essential for keeping things fresh, as well as promoting new talent to an open and engaged audience!

Damnation line-up offers a very good mixture of big names and also gives some space for sort of "underdogs" of the scene. Is it something you do deliberately?

Becky: Well, we don't think of them as underdogs - they're up and comers! They're the bands that five or ten years down the line will be the big names! It might sound cliched, but we truly believe in supporting underground and upcoming bands and including them on the bill is essential for keeping things fresh, as well as promoting new talent to an open and engaged audience!  And afterall, I think it's a given that Gav would rather have a cracking unknown band rather than Bowling for Soup!



I am definitely not complaining, but how do you manage to keep the price of Damnation so low?

Becky: It's a challenge! And the cost does have to go up sometimes, but we do our best to keep it reasonable each time. We see plenty of festivals/all dayers popping up and charging £50+ a day for a line up that's not as high quality as Damnation (in my opinion!). A lot of Damnation attendees have been coming to us every November for years - if we suddenly doubled the price, we'd lose them! It's a fine line and a difficult task to juggle, so I'm glad that it's Gav's job to do that, not mine!

Reviews and feedback Damnation gets are impressive. At the same time, expectations for Damnation are very high too. Is there still room for improvement?

Becky: Yes - there's always room for improvement! Whether it's stuff that we get feedback on from the audience, or stuff we pick up on ourselves, we can always make sure things run smoother. And we aim to do that every year - if every year is better than the last then we're always going to be improving. We don't get many complaints overall, but some that we get are things that we just can't do much about really; we're sorry that you don't like all the stairs in the venue, but overall Leeds University Student Union gives us a venue that suits us just about down to a T, so we'll not be asking them to ditch the stairs any time soon... that sort of thing! 

What can we expect from Damnation 2017?

Becky: Well, first of all I think we'll have a little break. Gav is off to New York to make the most of the insane amount of money he's spent getting himself to UFC 205, I'm moving house, and Paul is renovating a house. So we'll probably spend at least a few weeks doing things that don't involve amps, lighting rigs, guest lists and spreadsheets... and then we'll get back to business and bring you another ridiculous line up for next year!