Interview with John Badger
By Beth Jones
The underground metal scene is full of immense passion and hard work at the moment, and one man that embodies that is Manchester’s own super human, the elusive Mr Badger! The brains behind Badgerfest, and some pretty hot drumming, John Badger has to be one of the hardest working souls in the industry right now. I grabbed a few minutes of his time recently to do an email interview with him about music, Badgerfest 2019 and his upcoming charity event, ‘Drumming Up Change’, and here it is.
Can you tell us who you are and what you do?
Hello! I’m Badger a drummer and organiser of Badgerfest!
Can you give us a bit of history about Badgerfest – what made you decide to do it, and how did you start it?
In December 2016 I organised a mini tour for Impavidus, with Deified and God Shaped Devil. All the bands had a great time, said it was well organised and fans loved it. A few people said, ‘you should do more promoting and maybe even arrange your own festival’! The suggested name, as a joke, was “Badgerfest”. After a few months of deliberation, I thought about it more and I decided to put a post out for feedback, asking “If I was to put a festival on, firstly would bands be interested in performing and, secondly, would anyone turn up?” I was overwhelmed by the response, so I decided to give it a go. Before I did anything, I decided to get some advice from Simon Yarwood at Resin Events / Uprising Festival, Steve Dickson at Terrorizer / Mammoth Fest and Jason McGuire at Breaking Bands Festival / HRH / Hammerfest for research.
Their collective was:
● Don’t aim too high
● Get a good headliner
● Get a small venue (200 maximum)
● Research the bands
● PR & Marketing
● Network (face to face)
● SELL OUT
I feel I did this to a high standard and as a result it was successful, bearing in mind this was my first time putting on an event! But I always knew it would succeed due to the insane line-up, affordable tickets, the backing of the bands, the music community from gig goers, the marketing, and most of all my commitment & desire to succeed. I was shocked when people were asking on the day, ‘will there be Badgerfest again next year’? I decided to say yes if people want another one! Two weeks after the initial event, I had secured the line-up for Badgerfest 2018- The Sequel!
What can we expect from this year’s Badgerfest?
I would like to say hopefully the same as 2017/18, but with more oomph! The bands this year are more diverse compared to the previous years, as I didn’t want to hash another similar line-up, especially going in your 3rd year. I have some things planned to get more interaction with the punters/ customers. I want Badgerfest to be a lasting memory, as it has been so far, especially for those who’ve attended before.
You have a lot of bands this year that are lesser known to the festival circuit – do you think this is a risk?
Well they’re only lesser known if you’re not familiar with the bands already. In the background I have a media team who I let know the bands before they’re announced to the public and most of the bands so far they haven’t heard of and I think that’s great! The response is always very positive, and it means they’re finding new bands to listen to, which is what I like to do with Badgerfest.
Badgerfest Mission Statement “KEEP IT FRESH, KEEP IT RELEVANT, and KEEP IT EXCITING”
What are your plans for the future of Badgerfest?
My plans for the future of Badgerfest is to open the door to more genres. At the moment Badgerfest is mainly a Metal festival and that’s only because it is the genre I’ve worked the most in as a musician, but I do have other musical tastes that I would like to incorporate in to Badgerfest. This is giving the customer an opportunity to find some other musical journeys. I understand this won’t be for everyone and they’ll go see the bands they wish.
Next year I am planning on having two venues; offering Metal (sub genres of) in one venue, and the other offering more Rock, Prog and Indie – another great way of bringing people together who all share a passion for music regardless of the genre.
What advice would you give to bands who apply for Badgerfest in the future – what are you looking out for in an application?
The best advice I can offer, as most other event organisers would agree on, is make sure you read the application details before applying. Imagine you are applying for a job and you really wanted it.
We have specific things we ask for from an applicant and only those who follow this will be provisionally accepted.
Tell us a bit about this year’s venue, and why you chose to move it there from Rebellion?
This year is at The Bread Shed, also in Manchester, and the only reason for the move was due to the fact the previous venue was going to go through a refurbishment and they were unsure whether or not it could accommodate two stages. I have seen events at The Bread Shed and think it’s a great venue, which has pub attached, so when people need a break there’s somewhere else to go.
Tell us a bit about the ‘Drumming up Change Challenge’ charity gig that you have set up?
Well in the last few years I’ve had the opportunity to play in a few different bands, whether that was to help out a band due to an injury a drummer has had, or if I’ve been invited to perform as a session player live. Now, there’s been a common theme, or a running joke that if I’m at a gig –I get asked how many bands I am playing with that night, which is quite funny! If it’s only the one band that night, then I’m slacking hahaha!!
So, I decided to up the stakes, let’s drum for 10 bands and raise money for good causes at the same time!!!
For this gig, you are going to drum with every band. Are you mad?!! Why did you decide to do this?
Yes, some people will say I am mad, but I am very excited to do this!!
The reason for doing this is drawn from my own personal experiences, but I wouldn’t want to burden anyone with the reasons why. I can say though this means a lot to me, and that’s why chose to raise money for The Homeless working in association with The Big Issue North and Mental Health (Charity to be confirmed), as more and more people are ending up with more mental health issues, being made homeless, and even taking their own lives, which is unacceptable.
This got me thinking about my own life, and whilst I’m here fit and healthy (touch wood) what can I do to make a difference to someone who is not?!
On the event itself, most charity gigs, in my opinion are not exciting; yes, bands get an opportunity to play, but a lot of the time it just feels like a normal gig or all-dayer, where someone goes around with a bucket getting donations for a charity, and in some situations it does work. Most run a marathon, jump out of plane, swim the channel, or cycle from Manchester to Blackpool, which is still an amazing way of raising money and awareness.
But I wanted to make a difference where I could, in a different way, drumming for as many bands as possible in one day! In my opinion it’s more exciting, more appealing and it allows people, including musicians, to get involved.
For this, when you play with every band, are you doing just one or two songs with them, or is it a full set with each band?
Yes, the plan is to play with every band and do full sets. The estimate of actual drum time will be about 5-6 hours, but the difficult thing is that it’s playing different styles, some of which are very intense, and it will certainly have its challenging moments!
Will you organise more charity events in the future?
I will, potentially, but only if I think I can put something on exciting.
We know you have recently parted ways with Impavidus. What brought you to this decision, and what are your plans going forward for yourself, as a musician?
Yes, I have recently parted with ways with Impavidus, but on very good terms. It was a personal decision to leave the band. It was just my time to move on. We are all very good friends and we will be gigging together in the future, but I’m also looking forward to seeing them play from out front!
Musically, for me at the moment, it is working hard with Frozen in Shadows on a new record, which is in the recording stages and due for release end of July/ early August. I also have another project with a Progressive Post-Black Metal band (unable to disclose who this is at the moment), and I am with Scott Beveridge Project currently as a live session drummer, which is great fun, and some other stuff in the background!
It’s fair to say I’m a very active person, and always on the go! My wife says she really admires my drive, but she has no idea where I get the energy from, and that maybe I should rest! I always say don’t worry “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”!
We have recently had our one remaining good venue in Wrexham close down, and venues across the country are under threat – what do you think of the live music scene at the moment, and what can be done to stop audience apathy?
This is a very tough time for venues across the country, and for people’s pockets. Over the recent years there has been a surge of new bands starting up, but the problem is that there aren’t enough venues to cater for them.
People unfortunately have to choose one band to go and see over another, and of course where they spend their money. Some venues don’t go out of the way to really push events, especially if you’re in saturated city.
What I also find is that some venues put on the same bands, which is potentially why a venue might suffer, and the same goes for a festival. Yes, we like seeing our favourite bands, but isn’t it good to see and hear something new and exciting? When I was given the opportunity to organise the bands at Grand Central, I said to venue owner and punters, ‘I will bring as many new bands as possible to Manchester’ and I did!
If you could have any band in the world to headline Badgerfest?
You put me right on the spot there??!! So, I’m being cheeky and putting a few down!
Metallica class 91-93
Anything that Dave Lombardo is involved with.
Strapping Young Lad
Is there anything else you would like to say?
Well of course come to Badgerfest 2019! Why else are we having this discussion!!!
On serious a note, yes, support your scene where you can.
Also, if you see anyone struggling, and you think you could help, go and do it! You’ll be surprised how good it feels to help someone, no matter how big or small it may be.
We would like to thank Mr Badger for this brilliant interview. Personally, I can well recommend going to anything that he is involved in, as you will not be disappointed. This year’s Badgerfest is on 18th and 19th October, at the Bread Shed, Grosvenor Street, Manchester, and the Drumming Up Change charity event is on 16th November at Rebellion, Manchester. For more information, please visit the links below. Get yourselves down there and support the scene! We will see you there!
Badgerfest Event Page:
Drumming Up Change Event Page:
Badgerfest Main Sponsors:
Disclaimer: This interview is solely the property of 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 adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.