With The Prodigy, Metallica (above) and Black Sabbath headlining this year's event, the Download Festival is marking its 10th anniversary with some of rock music's biggest names. As the 2012 event kicks off in just over a month's time (8-10 June), we caught up with Live Nation's Andy Copping who runs the show for the lowdown and this year's festival and to find out exactly what Chase & Status are doing on the bill, shoulders with rock royalty. Plus win tickets for this year's Download Festival in this month's Q Quiz now.
Hello, how are the preparations for Download going?
"There's just over a month to go, and it looks like we're heading for our best year ever. Which considering the economic downturn that's going in the country at the moment is a real big achievement. We're elated to get into our 10th year, heading for our biggest festival ever, it's just amazing."
Some of the other rock events have suffered this year and there have been cancellations, why do you think you've avoided that?
"I think we went on sale early and we have a really strong line up. It's probably the strongest we've ever had and people trust us. The ticket buyer knows what they're going to get when they come to Donnington and they know what they're going to get from Download. Five stages over three days with five, six days of camping. This is people's holidays, they are the first dates they put in the calendar and so we're committed to delivering a great festival for them. We're all music lovers here so we feel like fans. We want to put on something we'd want to see ourselves. That's really important along with all the work we do with social networks and online communities. We've built that up from year one. We were one of the first festivals to embrace it."
You have to embrace online surely if you're running Download Festival?
"[laughs] Er , yeah. It had nothing to do with downloads itself when we first came up with the name, it was just a twist of fate that a couple of years later downloading was a big thing. It was more luck than judgement."
You've taken some risks with Download in the past, introducing dance bands onto the bill. This year you've got The Prodigy headlining and Chase & Status on. Confident?
"When I first brought The Prodigy back in 2006 people were saying I was insane and I said No, The Prodigy have got a punk rock mentality and the intensity and ferocity of a Prodigy show is rock'n'roll. It was hard for me to get some of the dyed in the wool rock fans to appreciate what I was doing. The weird thing was at the end of 2006 The Prodigy ended-up being one of the bands of the weekend. We had them headlining the second stage in 2009 and now they're very much worthy of headlining. The same with Chase & Status, we can mix things up a bit otherwise we'll be one dimensional and we'll die in the same way Monsters Of Rock died. It couldn't expand and support diversity. We can only go so far, there are only certain things we can put on, but it shows under this broad church which is rock music bands like Chase & Status fit really comfortably."
How far can you go?
"I'd of had Skrillex on this year if he'd been available. We know there will be plenty of Skrillex-alikes coming out of the woodwork, some great, some crap and those kinds of artists are going to fit. The dubstep, electronic kind of things is infiltrating rock circles and sits very comfortably alongside the Metallicas and Biffys of this world."
Talking of which, we can't imagine too many of your core audience will object to Metallica and Black Sabbath?
"No! We've been very lucky getting Metallica to do the Black Album in full. That's a major thing, it's the album that broke Metallica into the mainstream. It pulled them out of their pigeon hole and made them a huge act across the world. That's going to be great, and of course Black Sabbath is the only show they're going to be doing in Europe. With Tony Ioni and his lymphoma he's going through his treatment but they are going to do the show. It's amazing. They're a seminal act. They've influenced countless bands over the years, including Metallica and all these other bands on the bill."
They are big headline names, normally wouldn't you have been happy to have one this year and one next?
"Yeah, absolutely right. We were very lucky. It's our 10th anniversary and I wanted to do something special so I went out all guns blazing. The festival has a reputation and we have to keep coming up with strong and diverse bills. So I got in very early with these acts and thankfully managed to persuade them to play. You've got Biffy Clyro playing second to Metallica, when last year they were headlining a festival alongside Metallica! Soundgarden I would have taken as a headliner but I got them to play before Black Sabbath, so this year I feel I've got five main stage headliners playing the event. It's a massive achievement and good value for the ticket buyers."
Any personal favourite you've managed to smuggle onto this year's bill?
"I'm really chuffed Slash is headlining the second stage. That's as good as you're going to get for Guns'N'Roses, I think Slash is a far better proposition than the Guns'N'Roses that's out there at the moment. It will be great to see Refused who have reformed, it's their first show back in the UK. I can't wait to see Chase & Status, I think they will absolutely blow everyone away. A controversial booking, as it was when I booked Prodigy and Pendulum way back, but they'll smash it. And Steel Panther, they're always great value. I'm always struggling to get to see stuff once the festival starts, but I want to catch as much as I can."
You've named the main stage in honour of the late Jim Marshall.
"It's a fitting tribute. Strangely enough, as a company we're doing a Marshall 50 Year Anniversary Show at Wembley Arena in September and then Jim passed away about a month ago which was really sad. It just seemed a fitting tribute to name the main stage after him. He was an innovator."
Could you even guess how many Marshall stacks will be used over the course of Download?
"Can you imagine? Seriously, what a great advert. You look year and year at bands onstage and it's just Marshall everywhere! It's a fantastic brand and 50 years on its still classed as the most recognisable thing to do with noise, if you will. He was the King Of Noise without a shadow of a doubt. Stick a Marshall next to a Les Paul and what more do you want?"
Any changes to the site this year or travel advice ticket holders should note?
"Back in 2009 we had to find a part of the Donnington site that could fit us because we came out of the racing circuit, but that's helped us expand in terms of keeping the stages a reasonable distance from one another and in terms of capacity. It really works. In terms of travel, you can start camping from the Wednesday prior - a lot of people come and queue up from the Monday and the Tuesday! - so that keeps the flow of traffic down. You don't want queues before you get in and luckily for us we can spread over a few days."
So what will you be doing between now and Download kicking off? Feet up?
"I'm pulling my hair out, it's like hell on earth! There's between 120 and 130 acts playing over the weekend, all demanding certain things and wanting information. It's absolutely hell on earth but I wouldn't have it any other way. That said, I can't wait for the Monday after! [laughs]."
Can people still buy tickets?
"Yep there's a limited amount available. We're close to sell out: we're nearly out of weekend tickets, so buy now don't miss out."
Finally, is it true Download has an acoustic stage?
"Yes there is. We've had it for three years and a lot of the bands that play on other stages come and play on the acoustic stage. It's a real different flavour to the rest of the festival and very popular too."
So it's not full of confused rockers wondering where the noise is coming from?
"[laughs] No, it works really well. It was one of those things I wasn't sure of at first but it adds a different flavour to the weekend."
Paul Stokes @Stokesie
For more on this year's festival head to Downloadfestival.co.uk. Plus win tickets for this year's Download Festival in the Q311 Quiz now.
10:44 AM | 03/05/2012
More Photos Of:
Here's a preview of the cover of Q324, which hits the shops next Tuesday (28 May)
Mars Volta's acrimonious split? The future of At The Drive-In? As he launches new band Bosnian Rainbows the hardcore hero speaks
Get your questions in by 4pm on Monday (27 May)
Jamie Skey rounds-up this week's releases and the best new songs that have appeared online in the last seven days... (20 May)
Noel Gallagher wins Ivor Novello award, Thom Yorke scores tax documentary, Franz Ferdinand return with new album... Music News Daily
A round-up of all the news, views, interviews and cool music things online today (17 May)
With their Great Escape show this week (18 May) and further UK dates, the New York punk are in a gig booking mood...