Simon Yarwood Interview 27/05/2017
Interview by Rick Tilley and Beth Jones.
I’ve known Simon Yarwood for about five years now, primarily for being one of the guitarists in Resin. However, in more recent times, he has become well known in the Metal and Rock community for promoting and organising excellent gigs and events at the Firebug in Leicester and further afield through ‘Resin Events’ and that’s why I caught up to have a chat with him at Uprising because he is the genius/madman that organises this huge event, with the main day (Saturday) taking place at De Montfort Hall and a further two events on the Friday ‘The Night Before Uprising’ and Sunday ‘Uprising Aftermath’ at the aforementioned Firebug!
If you already know Simon then you’ll be aware of his razor sharp wit, incredibly dry sense of humour and massive selection of hugely colourful shirts. If you don’t know Simon then I’m warning you now about his razor sharp wit, incredibly dry sense of humour and massive collection of hugely colourful shirts. Simon is also a lovely guy and works his butt off to make sure that EVERYTHING runs as smoothly as possible. If you are thinking of going into the promotional side of things then I would heartily suggest Simon is one of the go to people so you can witness how things are done properly! He is always a pleasure to talk to and this was no exception!
Rick: Hi Simon, it’s lovely to see you again. This is the second year for Uprising. What made you decide that an already full festival circuit needed another event?
Simon: I think that we feel, and we still believe that this stands on its own two feet, you know, the quality of the venue and hopefully the organisational skills of myself and my partner behind it. I think there is room as well, especially when you look at the capacities of different ‘festivals’ for want of a better word,…it isn’t a word we use because Uprising is not a festival really, it’s just an event on its own, but there is a hole that we thought this would fill in terms of size. You have the sort of 200–300 capacity festivals and then you’ve got the 5000-10000 capacity festivals and there’s not really much that sits in between those. This has got, well the building itself will hold 2 and a half thousand people before we even move outside, so I think there was a space for it. With the right bands and the right backing from the public, I think it’s a hole that can be filled and we’ll fill it…and that’s cool!
Rick: Can you take us through some of the work that you do to put an event like this together?
Simon: I just ring my partner in crime, Matt, and say ‘can you do this?’ and ‘this needs doing’ and ‘can you do that?’ and ‘that needs doing’!
Rick: So it’s delegation?
Simon: Yeah, and then he’ll ring me and say ‘have you done this?’ and ‘that needs doing’ and we just kind of do that to each other really! We’ve both got different skills.
Beth: How long does it take to organise it? Do you start tomorrow?
Simon: Yeah. We will start tomorrow for next year. It’s like last year on the Sunday afterwards we were working on what we needed to do to put things in place for this year!
Rick: well that sort of leads into my next question. How did the arrangement / partnership with De Montfort Hall come about because it’s such an incredible venue?
Simon: It is yeah. I’ll be honest, I am lucky there because my partner at Uprising, Matt, he’s already got a relationship with this venue. He’s part of a board that put a festival on here called ‘Simon Says’. It’s completely different music you know, it’s more Indie, it’s very local bands focused and they’ll have the headliner, I think, this year is maybe The Wonder Stuff or someone like that, I can’t remember. So he’s got a relationship with the venue. So when we approached them to do something that was metal they trusted his past record and obviously he trusted me with my promotions and events that I put on, so that between us we would actually make it work. So he kind of leaves me to deal with anything bands and line-up related because he hasn’t got, maybe, the same feel for what bands need to be playing at the event, but when it comes to the venue itself and how we have to run such a large scale event, he’s got maybe more experience than me in that type of thing, so the two of us together, yeah we shout at each other and then it comes out right!
Rick: How many bands do you actually have to go through before you get to a line-up you are happy with? Because there have got to be bands who can’t do it etc.!
Simon: I would say for every band we book we’ve probably gone through anywhere from 5 to 10. for every slot we’ve probably got 10 bands that we’re looking at to fill that slot and you might find that instantly 7 of them can’t play, and then you’re down to 3 and you might take that 3 back up to 6 with others, you know, it’s just constantly changing. And you have got to put quite a mixed bag on to appeal. You need any sort of random Metalhead that will look at the line-up and there will be sort of 3 bands that are going to appeal to them, because that might be enough for him or her to make the decision to buy a ticket so you fill one slot with a thrash band and you may have another thrash band sitting as a possible for another slot, but you’ve already filled your quota of thrash bands, so they’ve got to go and you’ve got to fill it with a different style of metal so you’ve always got, hopefully, that right mix.
Rick: Obviously you’ve got a relationship with Simon Hall (Metal 2 The Masses Organiser), but how important is it for you to make sure that the Leicester Final of ‘Metal 2 The Masses’ is on here along with the rest of the bands?
Simon: The whole event was built round that you know! I mean Firebug where we put events on is an absolutely stunning little venue, but it is a small venue, and looking at a typical capacity for a final it wasn’t big enough, so then the conversation started with myself and Matt, whereby I said ‘look I want to run ‘Metal 2 The Masses’ but we need a venue for the final other than Firebug, what have we got,’ so Matt said ‘Well let’s do De Montfort Hall’ and I’m like.. ‘Woah… Yeah, well that’s gonna look a bit rubbish with 250 people in there’ and he went ‘well book some more bands then!’ I mean every band in that final, they will leave today, and the same last year, with photographs and video footage that they will never ever forget. I mean to get that production just to do a video would probably cost you ten thousand pounds, you know, for that lighting rig, for that stage, to use that venue for half an hour, to just film a video, would cost you ten thousand quid, I would imagine, and they are leaving here with a full load of footage and photos. I was watching them last year thinking ‘I want some of that! I’m booking my band! How come they’re all playing that stage…what have I done wrong? It’s brilliant. It’s a prize in itself you know. What I like as well is those bands playing that final and they are happy to play that final…to them that is probably their dream gig…until that winning band goes to Bloodstock, and then they realise how much more Bloodstock is. I know that because I’ve done it. I’ve won it, I’ve played it. I know what they are going to feel when they get there, they don’t! So they think this is amazing, but they haven’t yet experienced the Bloodstock experience, so I know that somewhere along the line in the next couple of months I’m gonna get a phone call going, ‘that was amazing, thank you so much’ and that’s what makes it worthwhile!
Rick: I know you have mentioned a bit about Matt, but you have got a load of people who you work with. How important is it to have people round that you trust?
Simon: It’s absolutely the most important thing. It’s more important than anything else! If I can say to anybody on our team, ‘I need this doing’, and I can then move on to do something else. It doesn’t matter what it is, if it is press related or artwork related, or production related, to know that you can just drop somebody an email asking them to do something and know that they’re either going to do it or let you know why they can’t is great. It frees your time up to go and do something that is perhaps more in your skill set. There are probably ten of us I think… all together!
Rick: Wow… that’s not a lot for an event this size!
Now this question is a bit sensitive… The attack in Manchester this week (Referring to the terrorist attack at the Ariana Grande Concert on 22nd May, five days before Uprising). Do you think it is going to put people off going to festivals or events? Or… do you think there is going to be resilience and people are going to fight back?
Simon: I think that for every person that stays at home, there will be another person that makes sure they go out. Some people naturally want to show solidarity or defiance or community spirit and we are seeing that. You saw it in Firebug last night you know…to see everybody stay silent for a minute at 10 o’clock, just because somebody has asked them to. That sort of respect, especially in our community, is really important so… I think it makes you think you know. It makes us have to work harder. We’ve had the police here all the time. We have been very strict on access to certain areas of the building. But maybe that is a good thing!
Beth: It’s reassuring isn’t it?
Simon: Yeah, yeah! We had to get together, we had to have a meeting and we had to decide. The venue had to look at how to make it as safe as possible and of course that’s all going on with days to go! You know, you’ve got to react and you’ve got to put something in place really. But from the public side of things, I don’t think they’ll see anything other than a couple of policemen here that weren’t. They were here last year, you know, they just didn’t have to walk in the building. They just called by and asked if everyone was all right and then went again, but this year they have to be here all the time and they are loving it!
Beth: Yeah, from our point of view, everything still seems very relaxed inside!
Simon: It is, and that is because of the people who are here and if you make them feel safe then they are going to be relaxed aren’t they? And it is a safe place to be!
Rick: How do you want the event to grow over the next three to five years? I’m assuming you are going to carry it on?
Simon: Yeah, I’ve got no intention of saying ‘well there we go that’s it then!’ I’m reluctant to ever want to move away from this venue. I think the venue is important for the quality of the event. Seeing people’s faces when they walk into this venue for the first time, saying the things that they say…!
Rick: Me being one of them, you know, I am a London boy and for me I was always going to Hammy Odeon, and this is my first time here and I walked in and was like…wow, this is a lovely venue!
Simon: Yep, and you capture people instantly then don’t you, you know, before you’ve even heard a band? You walk in that reception and there’s like gold braided ropes and plush red carpets and a proper box office with videos playing… You know last year I had people walking in saying ‘So what room is Uprising in?’ and I was like…you’re in it!! It’s the whole thing…just knock yourself out, go for a walk, go and find things! and they were all ‘Wow this is amazing!’ So I don’t want to lose that you know? ‘Simon Says Festival’, which we hold here, just in the grounds over there. There is a big outdoor stage and a marquee that gets put up with a 300 capacity! We’ve also got a bandstand where the acoustic acts are playing, so my aim is to mirror that really. You know we could have three and a half thousand people here with a decent outdoor stage. Probably another two stages but still all contained within these grounds. I mean you’re sat outside the stage door now and that is usually a grubby place. However, we are sat at a picnic table under a tree!
Rick: It makes a big difference doesn’t it?
I then asked Beth if she had any questions for Simon!
Beth: I don’t think so. I am quite new at this.
Simon: So am I! (This caused lots of laughter)
Beth: No literally, my first ever interview earlier was Lawnmower Deth!!
Simon: Wow, baptism of fire!!
Beth: Exactly! You are obviously very passionate about this?
Simon: Is this ten times more than you expected it to be when you turned up?
Rick & Beth: Yes!!
Simon: Well that’s my job done then!
Rick: When I walked into that main stage I was like, ‘Well I wasn’t expecting that’!
Simon: Yeah that’s my job definitely done then!
Beth: Do you every get days when you think, ‘Why am I doing this?’
Simon: Yeah…seven days a week probably!! (Laughing) But when you see it coming together it is…
Beth: It’s a happy warm feeling?
Simon: Yeah because that’s what it’s all about isn’t it? At the end of the day, when those doors open, people walk in and the music starts. Those 12 hours are…
Rick: And are you pleased with the turnout?
Simon: I’m always happy with the turnout. As long as everyone who wanted to come has come, I’m happy. If more people come, great and if less people come…well, I don’t want anybody to be here who doesn’t want to be here so… I want everyone that wanted to be here to come, but if some can’t, for whatever reason, then that’s a shame! Whatever, I will always be happy with the turnout. It’s not the customer’s responsibility you know. You show them something and they decide if they want to come, and they come or they don’t and then whatever the result of that is you take it on the chin.
Beth: So, apart from starting to organise next year’s event, what are you intending to do on Monday morning?
Simon: Erm… I’ve no idea! I’ve got breakfast in the hotel, I know that, and after that I don’t know! Probably start paying some bills!! (Lots of laughing) I’m back at work on Tuesday. That’s the real life. My gaffer at work actually asked me a few months ago if my job interfered with my hobby too much! And then promoted me so!! Yeah, ‘You’ve got organisational skills mate… come and have a look at this!!’ (Laughing)
Rick: Ha-ha that’s great. I’d just like to say it was a brilliant performance earlier as well with Resin! It was very weird seeing you as a six piece with a violin player!
Simon: Yeah, it’s changed a bit hasn’t it?
Rick: Yeah it has and I love it!
Beth: That’s what I was going to ask you…who is your violinist? I really liked her, she was cool!
Simon: I’ve no idea!
Beth: Just some random bird then?
Simon: Yeah yeah, we just found her! It was an advert on Gumtree or something! (Roars of laughter)
Simon answered this last question in such a matter of fact way that if you didn’t know him you would swear this was actually how they found their violin player Emma. Poor girl, I don’t know how she puts up with them! I’m seeing Resin again, in a little over a week at, SOS Festival so I’m hoping I’ll get to ask her!
What I can tell you about Simon is that he is a real character, very interesting to talk to and extremely funny. Knowing him as a guitarist was good because Resin are a great band, and are due in the studio to begin recording their second album soon, but knowing him as a promoter and event organiser is a real pleasure because he throws his heart and soul into it! You only had to look at the smiles, not just on the faces of the audience, but everybody that had a job to do to see that his way of working gets results. He may well get flustered…but you NEVER see it. What you see is always a calm exterior! There is no doubt that Uprising does indeed have a very important part to play in the Rock and Metal calendar. It really was a fabulous event to be a small part of and if 2017 was anything to go by then 2018 will be even bigger and better.
I just want to take this opportunity to thank him, not only for a wonderful day (I want to get to all three days next year), but also for taking the time to talk to us at Ever Metal! Simon, you are a gentleman!
Disclaimer: This interview is solely the property of Richard Tilley, Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to do adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities