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Download Festival Boss: Andy Copping

04 June 2005

If you're not excited about Download 2005, you're not alive! One man who cannot contain his infectious enthusiasm in the run-up to the UK's biggest and loudest rawk fest is the festival's mastermind himself...

Download: Winner of Best Themed Festival in the 2004 Festival Awards

Please click on a photo to enlarge it...

Virtual Festivals: How are the stress levels one week away from Download?
Andy Copping: There’s a little bit but it’s not all bad. It’s what you make of it. I’m definitely feeling better about things than this time last year because we started booked it all a bit earlier, which definitely helped. I’m just really looking forward to it now.

How’s it been working with Sharon Osbourne on the Ozzfest Saturday?
Sharon’s very hands on and she’s had a massive influence on the bands that are playing. We took her a list of bands we wanted playing and she came back with some more names and we worked from there. It was never a case of Ozzfest just being a name on the bill. Every band has gone to her for approval and in a lot of cases she has said ‘go get me that band’.

How is the expansion of the festival into three days going to affect Download?
It’s not changed dramatically. We have gone to three days and there’s now an extra stage because there are now going to be bands playing in the Soul Bowl [bmx and skating zone], but if we look back to the first Download in 2003, we just had two days and two stages, then last year two days and three stages, so it was a natural progression to expand into three days. It’s a gradual process but that’s not to say that in ten year we’ll have a week long festival with 20 odd stages!

So it’s not going to get any bigger than it is now in the future?
We feel we have got to a level. We ‘ummed’ and ‘arred’ about the three days, and there were a few raised eyebrows when we booked Dinosaur Jr and Feeder, but when you look at it overall, we now have a great festival with loads of quality acts. Few rock fans could look at that lineup and not get excited.

How about staging it across two sites like Reading and Leeds?
We’re already talking about that. We did a Glasgow Download last year but it was midweek. We couldn’t get a weekend and we couldn’t get camping, and it didn’t work as well. So we’ve decided to sit back for a bit, build on Donington, and wait for the right time. We’re currently talking with a few sites about twinning it like Reading/Leeds and V festival, but we’re also toying with the idea of having a Download festival in Europe as well. It’s certainly on our agenda.

The festival has broadened this year to incorporate a wider variety of music, with many calling Friday an indie day. Why?
Firstly, I’d actually dispute the claim that Friday is an indie day. You’ve got Megadeth, Wednesday 13, The Used, The Bled – if these are indie bands then I’m in the wrong business. We’re a rock festival first and foremost, but we also want to move forward. If you look at the case of Monsters Of Rock you’ll see why. During the 1980s the Monsters Of Rock events were amazingly popular. They were doing incredibly well and Reading was going downhill. But it got trapped by its name, and then as the music changed with the advent of the Seattle sound, bands didn’t want to be associated with the name. With ‘Download’ we feel the name can run and run even as trends start to change.

Do you use Monsters Of Rock as a model for Download?
That’s a very good question. At Download people still refer to the festival as Monsters Of Rock, however it’s more relevant to Donington as a site rather than Download. But you can’t help it – those festivals were fantastic, a total melting point of bands, rockers and punks. I’m a music fan beyond everything else and I’ve been to thousands of gigs and festivals, but I have to say that the vibe at Donington is second to none. I don’t have a clue why. It just is. It was always like that at Monsters Of Rock and if we can continue to keep that spirit then it’s all for the better of Download.

So is the secret to becoming a festivals promoter to go to thousands of gigs and festivals?
I kind of fell into it. I was a DJ at a rock club, playing at Rock City in Nottingham, which was the pinnacle for any rock DJ. It really was the best rock gig in the country. As well as DJs, they also booked bands and it got to the point where I was advising them on what bands to go for, acts like Guns ‘N’ Roses, Poison, even Nirvana, purely from a music lover’s perspective. So that was how it all started. My advise to youngster wanting to break into the business would be prepared to work for nothing to start with, get out there, volunteer, learn from the grass roots, and wait for people to trust your judgement

Which band was the most expensive to book?
Every single one of them, they are all very expensive! Obviously headliners get more than anyone else, but it wouldn’t be fair to say which one was the most expensive. We look at it in terms of what a band is worth for many different reasons. Black Sabbath don’t tour that often, System Of A Down have just had a number two album, Feeder bring a new dimension to the festival – so they’ve each got their own valid attributes, as well as being great bands!

Do you think it’s going to be the best Download?
It’s shaping up for that. Last year was brilliant and the year before that it was also great. We’ve had some special moments like Slayer playing in the small tent, Metallica appearing exclusively, before teaming up with the Slayer and Slipknot drummers. Nothing is ever engineered at Download, it just always seems to happen! I think the bill is really strong.

What’s do you think is going to be the highlight this year?
We have got something very special lined up in terms of the secret band. People are going to flip when they find out who. We always want to surpass expectations and put on something a bit out of the ordinary and I can’t think of any other festival that does that. We can’t say we’ll be able to put on a secret guest every year, but we’ll try! I guess we’ve created a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster in that respect!    

And who do you most want to see?
There are just so many bands that I want to see. Black Sabbath obviously and Garbage – I personally think their new record is really good. Then there’s System Of A Down, Slipknot, and Slayer - anybody would find it hard not to get excited about seeing three stage ripping acts like that in a row. I can’t wait for Bullet For My Valentine, who I’m tipping to be one of the breakthrough bands of this year, same goes for Trivium. Underoath and The Bled are also new bands you’re just going to love. Then Motorhead, a classic act, oh and Napalm Death in the Third Stage tent, fuck, that’s going to be awesome. They’ve never played a festival and they were adamant about playing Download. And everyone should go and see DV8 open the Main Stage on the Sunday. I saw them play in Texas and they’re fantastic. And of course, Society 1’s record breaking attempt suspended from the Main Stage! There are going to be so many bands and so much else to do around the site, I’m confident everyone’s going to have one of the weekends of their lives.

- Click here to discuss this on the Festival Forums!
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Article by: Ross Purdie

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